Watching pond life is perhaps the easiest way to understand an ecosystem. During spring and summer months, a pond provides drinking water to local wildlife and in some areas provides a surface for ice skaters in the winter. No matter the season, ponds are always supporting the lives of various plants and animals.
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Although there are no specifications for classifying a pond versus a lake, ponds are considered smaller and more shallow. Ponds are usually most active and full during the rainy months of spring and early summer. They are stagnant water bodies whose water source usually is rainfall. Ponds can be found in valleys, prairies, forests and even in residential back yards. Man-made ponds are popular yard structures for attracting new wildlife and providing garden focal points.
Because ponds are self-contained ecosystems, they are an important aspect of the environment in which they are found. An ecosystem has an energy source (the sun), life forms and nonliving components (such as soil and water). All three components of a pond's ecosystem interact to support the overall system. Ecosystems are composed of several different habitats. In the case of a pond, there are wetland and aquatic habitats.
Pond plants play an important role in providing food and oxygen to the other inhabitants of the ecosystem. Arrowheads, one common pond plant, have arrow-shaped leaves. Their stems produce a milky substance when they're broken open. Cattails are another pond plant. Cattails can grow to 9 feet tall and have long leaves that produce conical seed pods that resemble the tail of a cat. Horsetails, another pond plant, grow up to 4 feet tall and have segmented or jointed stems. Duckweed is a pond plant with small flat leaves that lie on the surface of the water like a blanket.
Pond animals, as defined here, are those that are confined to the pond's ecosystem. A variety of animals may use the pond periodically for food or water such as deer, squirrels or rabbits, but they do not play a pivotal role in the ecosystem's food chain. Frogs, toads and tadpoles are pond animals that go through their entire life cycle in the pond and feed on a wide array of insect species. Insects that can typically be found living in a pond include dragon flies, damselflies, mayflies, beetles, mosquitoes and water bugs. A variety of snakes, such as garter and water snakes, may call a pond home. Crayfish, newts and chameleons can also be found in some ponds.
If you want to study all forms of pond life, you'll need a microscope. Many of a pond's life forms are too tiny to be seen with the naked eye. Diatoms are a form of microscopic pond life and can resemble pieces of colourful glass. Many forms of algae also contribute to pond life. If a pond has a thriving colony of algae, you may see its growth floating on the water's surface. Other microscopic pond life forms include amoebas, anabaenas, rotifers and the larvae of the insects that are part of the ecosystem.
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