Lakes are very complex and can be difficult to manage. However with the changes going on around many of our lakes management is necessary for lakes to protect them. It is important to understand how lakes work before they can be managed. The University of Minnesota has an excellent online guide to understanding how lakes work: Understanding Lake Ecology.
Algae and aquatic weeds are an important part of our lake and pond ecosystems. They provide food, oxygen, and habitat for fish and other aquatic animals. It is important to realize that it is impossible to eliminate all algae and aquatic plants. Your lake or pond is not a swimming pool and should not be expected to look like one! Plants and algae are necessary for a healthy pond or lake. The University of Florida has an online guide for identifying aquatic plants. While not all of these plants are found in Michigan, this guide can help you identify common plants that you find. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality also has a guide to Common Aquatic Plants and a guide to Managing Aquatic Plants. Follow these links for descriptions and help with the algae Chara and the aquatic plant Wild Celery.
Sometimes algae and aquatic plants overtake the water and reduces your ability to recreate. Excess weed and algae growth can also cause other serious problems such as:
- Fish die offs,
- Blue-green algae (pea-soup algae) can produce toxins,
- Dense weed beds impede recreation and can potentially entangle swimmers, water-skiers, etc.
It is extremely important to determine what is a healthy and level of aquatic plants and algae. Generally this means a diverse set of plants. Healthy plant stands also reduce problems with blue-green and filamentous algae. A common solution to the overgrowth of algae and aquatic plants are aquatic herbicides and algaecides. An excellent guide is available from MSU Extension on pesticides for algae and aquatic plants. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Inland Lakes section provides permits for the chemical treatment of aquatic plants or algae. They can also provide help with the permit process.
Monitoring and staying up to date on lake issues is important. Lakes can participate in the voluntary Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, which can help you monitor changes in your lake over time. Several statewide and national organizations also exist to help riparians with lake issues. They include:
· Michigan Lakes and Streams Association
· Michigan Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society
· North American Lake Management Society
Shorelines can have an impact on what happens in a lake. A more natural shoreline tends to have a more diverse biological community and lower erosion problems. High inputs of fertilizers or problems with erosion along the shoreline can promote weed and algae blooms. It is best to minimize fertilizer inputs near the lake and make sure no fertilizer directly lands in the water. Also try to use fertilizer that contains no phosphorus (the middle number in a fertilizer analysis, ie. 33-0-15). Any bare soil should also be covered to prevent erosion. Minnesota has a website with a lot of information on Shoreline Management.
The following bulletins are available from the Oakland MSUE office and the MSU Extension Educational Materials Distribution Center:
E-2690 Purple Loosestrife Project Cooperator’s Handbook: Information on how to have a project to release beetles that eat Purple Loosestrife. There are five different sections, several of which are targeted towards school age groups. Cost is $5.00 for each section.
E-2745 Safe Harvest and Disposal of Aquatic Weedy Plants: A short guide to help you prevent the spread of invasive species. Cost is $0.20.
WQ-55 A Citizen’s Guide for the Identification, Mapping and Management of the Common Rooted Aquatic Plants of Michigan Lakes: This guide can help you identify the aquatic plants that are inhabiting your pond or lake, very useful for management. Cost is $8.95.
WQ-56 Integrated Pest Management for Nuisance Exotics in Michigan Inland Lakes: Describes several of the common invasive species throughout Michigan and what local organizations can do to help combat their spread. It is also available online.
WQ-58 Occurrence, Distribution and Control of the Parasites that Cause
Swimmer’s Itch in Michigan: Helpful information if your lake has problems with the swimmer’s itch parasites. Cost is $3.00.
OC-447 Ponds – Planning, Design, Construction: A guide produced by the Natural Resource Conservation Service to provide a guide in designing and constructing your own pond. Cost is $7.50.
OC-448 Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality: The best guide on designing and implementing a more natural shoreline. Cost is $19.95.
OC-507 Restore Your Shore: A CD version of Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality that includes enhanced examples of landscapes. Cost is $29.95.