Undeniably, wildlife use the native, adapted and even invasive plants growing in these areas for forage, communal and breeding habitat.
One of my favorits examples is the large stormwater pond next to my cardiologist’s office in St. Augustine. The man-made pond is a virtual roseate spoonbill, Platalea ajaja, rookery.
Though fodder for another story, a South West Florida Water management Biologist once told me the state does not want any wildlife utilizing stormwater ponds for anything because of potential pollutants. Right. Tell that to the birds and fish.
Here in Florida, most of these wet areas provide perfect growing areas for a Florida native plant, Typha latifolia aka cattails.
Admittedly, cattails are an aggressive plant, creating littoral shelf monocultures in many places. However cattails are one of nature’s most efficient water treatment approaches. They filter out massive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous along with other pollutants.
Unfortunately, many community infrastructure maintenance staff view these native water cleansing plants as a nuisance species, one best dealt with through chemical controls.
Killing cattails with roundup in a stormwater pond and leaving the plants in the pond to decompose is a sure-fire way of being obvious about not understanding important dynamics of nature’s nutrient remediation (nitrogen and phosphorous) and other pollutants, a process I refer to as the ‘Nutrients In – Nutrients Out’ equation.
How often have you seen vast stretches of cattails killed by the action of Roundup’s active ingredient – Glyphosate – “GLY-PHO-SATE”.
Monsanto has often spoke of the safety of Roundup and I’ve even seen Roundup representatives drinking the diluted mixture. However this article is not about Roundup.
Granted cattails can overwhelm a wet area.
Yet perhaps nature knows the earth needs clean water and uses cattails to accomplish the task.
So here in Florida and elsewhere, by the time Typha is killed by Roundup or reaches maturity as a plant, large quantities of pollutants have been removed from stormwater and sequestered in the species’ biomass.
It is in this part of the equation where we need to break the cycle of Nutrients In Nutrients Out.
Unfortunately some infrastructure maintenance crews readily apply Roundup at first sight of the plants, killing the cattails. Once the plants fall back into the pond and begin to decay, all the heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorous, oils and greases and other contaminants are soon released right back into the water.
The Nutrients In, Nutrients Out equation is simple. We put pollutants in our waterways, cattails take pollutants out of our water ways.
We should learn to take advantage of nature’s ingenuity.
But Roundup use concentrates nutrient and pollutants in our water resources.
Plants are efficient at removing pollutants and cleaning water.
Yet if the plants are killed and allowed to decay in the pond, then all the pollutants and nutrients are re-released right back into the waterbody.
The Nutrients In Nutrients Out cycle must be broken to finally clean stormwater.
Harvesting Typha is the best long term answer to nutrient removal.
The cattails can then be composted and, after Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure tests (TCLP) the composted biomass can be used as community mulch or nutrient rich fertilizer.
Understanding the Nutrients In Nutrients Out cycle is critical to effective and sustainable control of stormwater pollution.
We put pollutants in our waterways, cattails take pollutants out of our water ways.
Befriending cattails as water and wildlife friendly plants is smart for long term community wildlife population health. Cattails provide forage for many birds. They offer communal refuge for fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. The species cleans the air and filters water.
Smile next time you see vast communities of cattails. Nature is trying to correct our mankind inspired pollution problem. Better yet, add a few cattails to your neighborhood drainage ditch.
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