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Aquatic Plants: Friend or Foe?

written by
Linda McDonagh

Chances are, when you look at a body of water, you don’t give a second thought to the plant life floating on the surface or sticking out of the shallows. Depending on your point of view, they could be “pretty” or just a bunch of “weeds.” The fact is, these plants (and the ones you can’t see under the surface) are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem. Some plants are native to the region and extremely beneficial. Others are invasive species that don’t belong there.

The Good Guys – Native Species

Bodies of water naturally evolve over time and eventually create a balance of plant and animal life. The plants output oxygen in the water while providing nutrients and hiding places for fish to flourish, attracting other wildlife to the area. This provides homeowners numerous opportunities for recreational activities that they value.

What are Invasive Species? The Bad Guys

Invasive species come from out of town, so to speak. They don’t work their way into a regional ecosystem gradually over decades, but barge in unannounced. And you can’t stop them from coming. They arrive by air (bird droppings), land (hitchhiking on wildlife) and water (bait buckets, boats and fishermen’s boots). All it takes is a few seeds to launch an incursion. Even plants from a lake in the same county can be threatening.

aquatic plants

Pennywort with Salvinia, Invasive Species

Why Should You Care About Invasive Species?

Can a few plants really make such a difference? Here’s what two government agencies have to say about Invasives.

“…these plants…grow aggressively, and have a high reproductive capacity. Their vigor combined with a lack of natural enemies often leads to outbreak populations.”

“These population explosions can have catastrophic effects, out-competing and displacing native plants and disrupting naturally-balanced native plant communities. Invasive aquatic plants can completely fill a water body, driving fish and wildlife from the area.”

It doesn’t sound like something you want to happen in your back yard, does it?

What Can You Do to Prevent Invasive Species Spread?

One thing you can do is to wash down boats and gear when going from one body of water to another. It’s kind of like using hand sanitizer to minimize infection. But, as we pointed out before, Invasives can still find you.

What Not to Do When Avoiding Invasive Species Spread

Whether you live on a pond, lake or waterway, the worst path of action is to grab a commercial herbicide off the shelf and declare war on any plant in sight. Not only do some of these products contain chemicals that are harmful to wildlife and humans, but a scorched earth policy will also deprive the body of water of the plants that filter pollutants from the rainwater that flow into it, provide cover for wildlife and fish, and add an element of beauty that frames the shoreline. It will also upset the delicate natural balance that is best for the ecosystem.

Have Invasive Species in Your Water? Call the Pros

Regular monitoring and preventative maintenance are required to ensure invasive species don’t establish themselves and get your body of water into serious trouble. Unfortunately, the average person is not qualified to do it.

Most plants look very much like another to the untrained eye. In addition, you can’t readily see what is happening beneath the service of the water, where many issues begin. Besides, even if you could identify an unfamiliar plant, what would you do about it?

The best suggestion is to call in a professional water management team like Clarke. Preparing a survey of the plant life in your particular water habitat and taking action against aggressive species is the only sure way to protect the natural plant balance in your body of water. Our Control Consultants know the difference between Hydrilla verticillate and Myriophyllum spicatum and any number of other harmful plant species. Regular preventive inspections can catch any invasive plant life before they can do irreparable harm.

More importantly, we know the proper action to take to remove the threat while keeping a balanced ecosystem intact. Our regional office professionals can talk to you about water environments in your area. Contact Customer Care to find your local representative.

To learn more about aquatic plants and waterbody management, check out our other articles below: