published Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Heat adjustments

Ponds, cover plants areas of concern


by Dan Cook

Farm ponds and small lakes are among areas most adversely affected by the hottest summer since 1977, biologists say.

While big rivers and lakes are supplied with plenty of fresh water from creeks, springs and other tributaries for sufficient aeration, private-property waters usually do not have such help.

That’s why the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency recommends that pond owners use aeration systems to offset the effects of the summer heat.

Bobby Wilson, TWRA’s assistant chief of fisheries, said even a pump that pulls water from a small reservoir and then sprays it across the surface can be helpful. That could be a simple lawn sprinkler rigged with a water pump. But it’s important to use water directly from the pond rather than chlorinated city water, Wilson said.

The finer the spray the better, he added.

Sudden summer showers, although welcomed as relief for plant growth, can be detrimental to ponds, Wilson said. The “turnover” effect of cold water suddenly hitting a warm pond can lead to oxygen depletion. The lower, colder level of water in a pond sometimes is oxygen-deficient. Water from a heavy rain plunges to the bottom since the colder water is denser and heavier, and the resulting mix can drop the oxygen in the water to lethal levels.

Such small bodies of water also usually need to have some fish removed as temperatures rise. That is to eliminate overcrowding during the oxygen depletion.

Otherwise, wildlife across the region appear to be faring well this summer, biologists say. Larger animals such as deer in particular appear in good shape.

Bruce Anderson, wildlife management director for TWRA’s Region 3, said fawns have been appearing late this year, but the slower reproduction is likely an effect of the harsh 2009-10 winter.

Mammals hurt worst by the heat are Northern flying squirrels and fishers, Anderson said, noting that his region is at the southern edge of their range.

“For the last several years, fire ants and armadillos have been expanding, but that’s been a long-term trend,” he added.

David Gregory, biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, said he doesn’t believe the heat will have much direct bearing on wildlife.

“Most of the impact will probably be from the grasses and plants that won’t get as tall in the fall,” he said. “Not having enough cover to protect some animals from predators could be a result.”

Turkey poults, dependent upon such cover until they become able to fly away from predators, are among the vulnerable.

August turkey counts conducted by biologists after the birds have passed through varied weather conditions and predation determine bag limits for the next hunting seasons. A 3-to-1 survival ratio of poults to hens is considered positive.

Keeping plenty of fresh water in backyard birdbaths and electric-powered waterfalls is one way homeowners can assist smaller birds during hot weather.

Recent showers are expected to boost fall dove hunting plans at the Blue Hole and Estelle fields in the Crockford-Pigeon Wildlife Management Area near LaFayette, among other places. The rain will assist the growth of grasses planted to attract birds.

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