Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On Golden Pond: Algae Has Its Place, but . .

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On Golden Pond: Algae Has Its Place, but . .

Article excerpt

Algae occurs in ponds when temperatures increase because warm weather is the optimal environment for these plants to reproduce, says Mike Fuhr, aquatic services biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Algae, however, does not exist only to haunt pond owners. In the right quantity, the simple plants, which lack stems, leaves or roots, contribute to a healthy aquatic environment by keeping the water oxygenated, providing food, shelter and nesting areas for young fish and controlling the erosion of shorelines.

The three basic forms of algae are planktonic, filamentous and macrophytic. Planktonic algae are single-celled, microscopic plants that are suspended in the water, often making the water look green.

Fine green threads known as filamentous algae form floating masses that make fishing and swimming difficult. Macrophytic algae are large plants that appear to have stems and leaves and attach to the bottom.

The most common type of macrophytic algae found in Missouri, Chara, have a gritty texture and musky odor and is problematic because it carpets the bottom and crowds out other species.

In moderate amounts algae can be helpful, but the plants become a problem when they grow in excessive numbers. Healthy ponds generally have 10 to 15 percent of the bottom or surface covered by algae.

However, Fuhr says that if more than 15 percent of the water is occupied by aquatic plants, problems can occur. These include altering the balance of the fish community, killing fish, and making boating, swimming, fishing and irrigation difficult.

Controlling algae can be done with the careful use of herbicides or with several non-chemical methods. Only apply herbicides after identifying the specific aquatic plant and accurately measuring the pond.

Fuhr suggests a copper-based herbicide such as Cutrine Plus or copper sulfate available at hardware, farm-supply or lawn care stores.

Once the herbicide is applied, the treated area will turn brown, sink to the bottom and decay. Ponds usually require more than one treatment.

When applied correctly according to the label, herbicides can be an effective method of control, but if used improperly, the chemicals can poison aquatic animals, as well as plants, and deplete oxygen levels in the pond by killing too much vegetation at one time.

As a result, Fuhr recommends using non-chemical methods such as weeding and removing the growth with nets and rakes or determining excessive nutrient sources that fuel the algae.

Sometimes there is too much fertilizer used around the pond, Fuhr says. If pond owners eliminate these nutrients, the algae will not be a problem.

For more information on algae control, request a copy of the free brochures, Algae Control in Lakes and Ponds and Nuisance Aquatic Plants in Missouri Ponds and Lakes from the Fisheries Division - Missouri Department of Conservation, P. …

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