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Out of the weeds...

Photo courtesy of Robert Kroninberg

As spring comes into its own, so does Prospect Lake. Snowy vistas and frozen sports are all well and good for the winter months, but for most of us a lake means splashing and boating and jumping off rafts. A lake means water and its enjoyment. Managing the health and usability of the lake’s water is what FOPL (The Friends of Prospect Lake) is all about. It is not a trivial job, nor can it be taken for granted.

Every year since its beginning in 2006, FOPL has hired a consulting firm that specializes in “limnology,” the fancy term for the professional, science-based, ecologically focused management of lakes and ponds. Over the years, the consulting firms have changed as they have merged or been purchased by a larger competitor. But no matter the company name or size or location, it has always zeroed in on FOPL’s primary goal – managing/controlling the presence of invasive or nuisance weeds in the lake.

Recently SOLitude Lake Management, FOPL’s current consulting firm, published a flyer about lake weeds, a reminder of what we are dealing with here. The following are excerpts adapted from the flyer (complete text available at https//

Invasive Aquatic Plants Are Bad News For Freshwater Systems

The summer season is right around the corner: fishing, boating, swimming, and

lots of fun around the water. However, if lakes and ponds are not properly managed

throughout the year, these activities can be interrupted due to many factors like

nuisance and invasive weed growth.

Invasive plants are not inherently bad, but when they are moved from their native

ecosystems they reproduce more rapidly. This explosive growth can interrupt

recreational activities by ensnaring boat propellers and fish hooks, impeding

kayaking and, in unfortunate instances, endangering swimmers. Likewise, native plants

that serve as food and habitat for local wildlife can be threatened and destroyed.

Where does this chain of events lead? Well, the negative effects can be surprising.

For example, a study once found that the dense growth of invasive plants near alligator

habitats shaded their nests, keeping eggs cooler during the incubation period.

Because temperature plays a role in the determination of sex in alligator embryos,

scientists found that more females hatched than males.

Over time, this small factor can have significant ramifications on the species. And

It’s indicative of the many long-term consequences of allowing invasive plants to

spread in our communities. This why it’s crucial to understand why invasive weeds

are spreading and what we can do to stop the problem.

Weeds come in many forms, including submerged, floating, and emergent species. And

each plant species reproduces differently - some by the transportation of seeds from one

location to another and others via fragmentation, which is when a piece of vegetation

breaks off and forms an entirely new plant. Therefore, professionals rely on a variety of

management techniques.

Submerged weeds* grow from the bottom of the waterbody and sometimes “top out” at

the surface. While they don’t always create visual distractions, submerged weeds clog

water intake systems, increase flooding risks, tangle fish hooks and kayak paddles,

endanger swimmers, and disturb the natural predator-prey relationships in an aquatic

ecosystem. There are also economic risks associated with damaged equipment and a

reduction in recreational activity.

*The kind that grow in Prospect Lake.

Because submerged plants are rooted below the surface and because many reproduce

easily through fragmentation, they are most often eradicated with EPA-registered

herbicides. These products are optimized, meaning they specifically affect the unique

growth mechanisms of the plant without impacting native wildlife or interfering with

recreational activities. And when professionally applied, stakeholders can rest assured

that weed management efforts are as highly-targeted and efficient as possible.

For smaller infestations triploid grass carp are also an effective option. Grass carp are

voracious eaters that enjoy feeding on many submerged weeds. However, they are not

a suitable solution for every waterbody - and in some states they are not legal - so it’s

important to confer with a local freshwater management professional. (Note: grass carp

are not allowed in Mass.)

Active weed management goes hand in hand with education. In most cases, people are

unaware of their role in the spread of invasive species. Encourage members of your

community to look for plant fragments on boats or recreational equipment after leaving a

waterbody. Be sure to pick up pet waste, which can inadvertently fertilize invasive plants.

Educate others on the importance of invasive species identification; some invasive

weeds like purple loosestrife are quite beautiful and tempting to replant as landscaping.

These small adjustments can have a significant impact on our natural environment and

our local communities.

Thanks to SOLitude Lake Management for the above ideas about weeds and the careful control of them. Over the years, FOPL has carried out a professionally guided program of survey/treat/check results/treat-again-if-needed. We have kept on top of weeds like Eurasian milfoil, curly leaf pondweed, and algae, so they are not a threat to the lake’s use and future.

Membership in The Friends of Prospect Lake is open to all. We welcome fresh ideas, fresh energy, and the opportunity to discuss needs, plans, and options. Visit the FOPL website at or call Joyce Frater, our current president (528-2198.)

Our annual meeting, also open to all, will take place sometime in July. Stay tuned.

SOLitude Lake Management is a leading environmental firm specializing in the sustainable management of lakes, stormwater ponds, wetlands, and fisheries.

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