This letter is in response to the front-page article in Sunday's Post and Courier - "Who should pay the price to maintain pond algae?"
The answer to this question is most often ... nobody! This would be true if municipal planners, developers and neighborhood associations would plan, build and maintain neighborhoods in ways that fit the ecology of the land, rather than constantly fighting against it.
My own neighborhood serves as a case and point. It was built on what once was a bottomland hardwood forest checkered with wetlands. Just prior to the recent economic collapse, the forest on one large tract slated for home building was mostly cut, the wood trucked away to be sold, the land built up, a retention pond was created from a wetland area, and native aquatic and shoreline vegetation removed.
The collapse in the housing market allowed the wetland on this tract to undergo years of succession back to an ecosystem that in many respects resembled a typical Lowcountry freshwater wetland. Shoreline and aquatic emergent and floating vegetation became re-established along with all manner of native wetland birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
This pond, which was undergoing natural succession back to the wetland that it once was, would provide all of the services that any developer or homeowner would want.
But here's the important part - it would do it for free. It would mitigate flooding, filter water laden with lawn chemicals, and purify it before it enters the ground water. No aerators, non-native algae-eating fish, chemical herbicides, algaecides or man-made floating gardens would be needed.
Nor would we, as suggested in the article, have to "control the right levels of all life in the pond." A biologically diverse wetland would maintain itself, and all we would have to do is agree not to bother it.
After all, no one has to maintain the wonderful salt marshes of the Lowcountry.
They maintain themselves, just as we would want them to, providing habitat for all manner of creatures upon which we depend, wonderful fishing and recreation experiences for people, not to mention an aesthetically peaceful and beautiful environment.
Since the re-emergence of the economy, and correspondingly this native wetland, the neighborhood has recently seen a resurgence in home-building, resulting in the building of "eco-friendly" low energy use solar-aided homes.
Unfortunately, the same "eco-friendliness" was not extended to the nearby wetland. An aquatic herbicide was used to kill the duckweed, which is not algae, but a native floating flowering plant common in high organic nutrient environments and an important food source for waterfowl.
The shoreline vegetation is now continuously mowed, and floating aerators were installed to prevent the pond from becoming de-oxygenated when algae begin to grow as a natural consequence of a dramatically disturbed habitat.
Now we have on our hands an environment that will require constant vigilance (and money) as we fight to maintain an unstable, low-biodiversity, constantly disturbed environment, and the cost of doing this is now passed on to the community.
One wonders when humans will ever learn to live with nature, rather than constantly fight it.
Coral Reef Drive
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