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Kyla Ledingham
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it's not just a pond, it's an ecosystem

My first summer at Innovation I noticed the Garden Park Pond had a case of Peasoupitis.  This condition has numerous causes and upon investigation I realized our pond suffered from most of these.  So, during the fall we drained it, dredged it and made some repairs.  Most importantly we made a plan to restore the pond ecosystem.  A healthy pond ecosystem can drastically reduce the amount of time and money spent keeping the water clear with fancy gadgets and chemicals.  By reducing the bio-sludge levels to a healthy amount, supplementing and fostering the microbe population, increasing the plant material and improving water flow, we have drastically reduced the incidence of algae bloom in the pond and increased the wildlife.  And that is what I am going to tell you about today, the ever increasing community living in the pond.  I’ll start with the smallest organisms and work up to the ones you name.

Microbes

You can’t see them, but the pond is full of microbes and they are its most important resident.  A healthy microbe population will reduce build-up of organic matter and nutrient spikes which can lead to algae blooms, cloudy water, unpleasant odours and toxic conditions.

Insects

These little guys play a very important role in the pond.  The insects feed on the decomposing organic matter and microbes fattening themselves up to be food for the next rung on the food chain; amphibians, fish and birds.  Some of these insects eventually move out of the pond to become part of the ecosystem of the entire park.  The pond is a mosquito factory, but by restoring the ecosystem we have increased the population of predators which control the population naturally. 

Amphibians

We are very lucky to have a small but growing amphibian population in the pond.  Frog sightings have become a regular occurrence and on occasion salamanders have been seen scurrying away from workers.  These animals are a great indicator of a healthy, pollutant free, ecosystem.  Along with being a great indicator species (we all know what role they play in the food chain) I would much rather hear a frog croaking than insecticide sprayers priming.

Fish

Minnows

It all started with the Turtle Incident of 2010, to paraphrase a former summer student “there were two girls with a rubbermaid bin acting suspicious by the pond yesterday and now there is a big turtle in it”.  There was great concern there would not be enough food in the pond for the parks new mascot, so Rosy Red Minnows were bought from a pet store and released into the pond.  Almost immediately after that someone gave the turtle a permanent home and the minnows went to work having babies.  That fall, as I looked at all the minnows I thought to myself “this is going to be a stinky mess in the spring”.  But as it turns out the minnow’s small size allows them to burrow into the pond bottom and survive the winter, so no stinky mess and a permanent minnow population.

Trout

We all have that co-worker that comes up with cockamamie schemes, which usually turn out annoyingly well, and in my case that co-worker keeps walking up to me wanting to put random animals in the pond.  This year his big idea was rainbow trout and I have to admit it is a great idea.  The trout were purchased from a local fish farm and are currently about seven inches long, but they are eating and growing rapidly.  The trout are very active and though hard to spot when under water.  It is quite easy to see them jumping for flying insects.  It just got a lot harder to be a mosquito in this park.

Koi

I have always wanted to have Koi in the pond, they are beautiful fish and as bottom feeders they do a great job of controlling the buildup of organic matter as long as you are not supplementing their diet.  However, before we put the Koi in there were some obstacles we had to overcome.  First we had to improve water quality, so they could be seen and be healthy.  Secondly we had to figure out how to catch them in the fall as the pond has to freeze solidly to become a skating rink.  Last summer, we took the plunge and I bought some small koi and released them into the pond. They started out as two inch fish and by the end of the summer they were almost a foot long and so the attempts to catch them began.  All I will say about that is we tried a few things, some worked, some didn’t and yes we did consider pulling a net across the entire pond, but there are logistical reasons why that won’t work.  This year we have put in 18 Koi of various sizes, I am very excited to see how large they become over the course of the summer, and even more excited to try and catch them this fall.

Transient Wildlife

We also have a healthy transient population in the pond that has included waterfowl, muskrats, a turtle and a group of small children that decided to help the students weeding the island.  These animals, though not permanent, can still play very important roles in the pond ecosystem, and the coffee room conversation ecosystem.

Kyla Ledingham, Landscape Manager,
Innovation Place in Saskatoon

- July 2012

 

 

pond

frog

fish friends swimming

Kyla releasing baby Koi


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