Makin' Waves column: The good, the bad, the weedy
I have heard many folks talking about the amount of "weeds" in the area lakes. Some folks are concerned because we don't have as many, others because we have too many. Go figure, we can't agree about something to do with area lakes. Shocker there!
It was a wet, cool spring, which resulted in lots of sunlight reaching the bottom of the lakes and jump starting plant growth. Nutrients are not the limiting factor in most lakes around here; rather it is the amount of sunlight hitting the bottom. The plants can get a head start on algae if it is a cooler spring and clearer water. If the water was warmer and murky with algae, the sunlight would not reach as deep into lakes and there would be fewer plants. It is a battle between the algae and plants to see who can get going each year, and this year the plants are winning so far.
Now that I gave you a crash course in my version of limnology, I am willing to stick my neck out a bit and say that I am all for vegetation. As someone that fishes, hunts, and is on the lake at least four or more days each week I understand the importance of aquatic vegetation to our lakes and streams. From preventing erosion, providing food and shelter, and taking up excess nutrients, our lakes would be a barren desert without vegetation. Even vegetation like Curly Leaf Pondweed, which is technically invasive, in many cases is better than no vegetation at all for an ecosystem.
On the flip side, I also understand that folks like to swim and recreate without having their toes tickled and their props tangled. I understand that you want to sit on your lakeside deck and see shimmering water and not weeds. You also don't want to have your nose assaulted with the aroma of swamp and decaying vegetation while sipping a cocktail at sunset.
So...where is the balance then you might be asking? That there, my friends, is the million dollar question. Do you want murky water or do you want more vegetation? Do you want habitat and lots of fish and wildlife or do you want clear, open water for recreation? It is a very complicated conundrum, and just when we think we have some middle ground, in comes a dandy of a curveball like zebra mussels. Zebra mussels will surely result in clearer water and more vegetation. Is that good or bad? Is there a middle ground?