Bill Jones, limnologist and retired professor from Indiana University, spoke on lake sustainability at the annual breakfast meeting of the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Saturday morning. He challenged those present to lead by example and noted cumulative impacts add up.
Lake sustainability, a goal for lake associations to achieve was the topic of Bill Jones’ presentation Saturday morning for the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s annual breakfast meeting.
The limnologist expressed his delight to speak to an enthusiastic group who has “been doing a lot of great things already and doing the right things in your watershed and foundation.” He recognized the stream bank restoration, sediment management in the watershed. “I’m not going to talk about specific methods of what to do to make the lake better. I’m going to talk more philosophical. Where we need to be looking at the long term.”
The recently retired Indiana University professor provided the basic classic ecosystem definition adding the whole globe and world is an ecosystem. “There are so many services (of the ecosystem) with great studies done talking about the value of the ecosystem.”
He added the services provided more than exceeds the national debt. “You can’t put money on it.”
He provided causes, effects and potential solutions. Using the old Pogo comic where the swamp is becoming polluted and the group tries to find out who to blame, discovering it was them. “We have met the enemy and he is us,” Jones quoted the comic strip.
The main point he stressed was cumulative impacts add up, encouraging those concerned about the lake to take action by setting an example. He also stressed individuals need to keep in mind “Is what I’m doing going to benefit sustainability or could it harm sustainability?”
He touched on the services provided by the ecosystem and the ecosystem of a lake, which did not include humans. “We as humans cause more problems + when we get humans into a system eutrophication occurs. He stated cultural eutrophication takes tens of thousands of years, but with human involvement and man-induced eutrophication it could be tens of years instead.
Jones provided information on a study using fossils and sediment records a lake can exist with no change and get better.
“City landscape is not compatible with lake shore living,” he stated. “Time and time again we see that people get attracted to the lake for the scenic beauty, the fish, for the water clarity, aesthetics, then they go about making changes that destroy the very features that attracted them to the lake in the first place. That is why we have cultural eutrophication.
“We need to be thinking ecological sustainability. What are we doing to help the lake sustain itself or are we causing cultural eutrophication?”
Treat The Cause
Jones noted many treat the symptoms not the cause in lake management. Algae is treated, but the cause c too many nutrients c is not. Placement of retention basins to keep sediments out is a treatment of too much sediment, but the cause is eroding landscape.
“Fish stocking should be self sustaining, if they have a place to nest,” he noted and pointed out a lot of lakes treat weeds every spring to the point there are no rooted plants at all and seawalls totally around the lake. “They stock the lake every year with fish and wonder why fish aren’t reproducing. There is no habitat. Fish can’t reproduce in a bathtub.”
Jones pointed out individuals can start in their own watershed, their property. He showed slides of property landscaped to the edge of the seawall with no plants, no shade from trees allowing leaves to fall naturally into the lake and provide food. “There is virtually no lake ecosystem value to sustain the lake, no place for fish, for aquatic insects which eat the algae that grows, insects are eaten by the fish to sustain the fisheries that keep the lake functioning.
“Everything goes downstream in the watershed,” he stated. Keeping a lake shore as natural as possible or including shrubs, native grass, can intercept nutrients and sediment before getting into a lake providing habitation for biological organisms products that eventually become eutrophic. Relating how in the 1930’s when seasonal cottages were small, gravel drives, grass corridors and plenty of trees were left on properties there was minimal impact to the lake. “Today everything is bigger, bigger homes, closer to the lake, paved drives, Kentucky bluegrass all around, no trees. There is significantly more runoff of water, phosphorous delivery and sediment cause of our own sources. Leaving vegetative buffers along the lake shore prevents things like that.” He added every property needs some pervious services to aid in water run off.
He suggested re-facing seawalls with glacial stone to create habitat for insects and fish and break up the lake waves to eliminate choppy waters, getting the lake back by removing invasive species. “It’s healthy native plants, places for fish and insects that keep the system sustainable.” He stated plants, algae and rooted plants grow in the lake, but if there are too many nutrients and lots of shallow water from sediment build up these are great spots for algae to grow. “If you have this situation, dredging after you’ve stopped the source is the only way to get the lake back to make great habitats.”
“The word of the day is sustainability. Will this succeed? A pessimist thinks, trying is the first step toward failure. That’s not the attitude you want to have. ‘Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.’ That speaks to what I see in you guys, you’re enthusiastic, want to do things and a little setback isn’t going to dampen your enthusiasm. We need to foster enthusiasm.”