Ponds add beauty to a landscape, but they can also benefit wildlife by providing habitat. Ponds can provide food sources, clean water for drinking or living, shelter, and nesting sites or nesting material for many types of wildlife including birds and butterflies. In turn, we humans benefit from the ecosystem services we receive for free by having a pond, like more mosquito-eating dragonflies. Since many of our natural wetlands and natural ponds have been removed or degraded, landscape ponds can help if we follow these suggestions when planning, constructing and maintaining your pond.
- Easy in / Easy out : Gradually sloping edges or ledges with small vertical drops along the pond edge will help many types of smaller birds, amphibians and insects get in and out of a pond easily, or access water for drinking and bathing.
|Ledges or gently slopings sides allow small wildlife to access water easily.|
|Examples of pond edges suggested by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Conservation website|
- Moving Water – The sound of moving water attracts wildlife , and reduces breeding mosquitoes
- Perches & Shelter – Adding plants, rocks or branches near and in your pond can provide areas for wildlife to rest, find food, nesting areas, and hide from the elements (wind, cold, hot sun) and predators. Pale colored rocks will reflect the sun and warm the bodies’ of dragonflies and damselflies.
- Sun and shade: If you can locate your pond so it receives both some sun or shade part of the day, you will attract a larger variety of wildlife. The amount or sun or shade depends on the time of the year or day, and the species of wildlife.
- Add some depth: This will prevent the pond from freezing all the way during winter so aquatic wildlife and plants can survive the winter. Aquatic wildlife can also hide from predators in deeper sections of a pond.
- Fish / no fish – The decision to add fish depends on the goals of your wildlife pond. Fish will eat dragonfly nymphs and tadpoles, plus birds, raccoons and other wildlife will eat fish. Providing places to hide (shelter) can help. Because non-native fish are usually brightly colored, they are spotted easily by predators. Native fish such as smaller sun fish or minnows may be more appropriate for a wildlife pond but talk to your pond supplier to check availability, species and quantity needed.
- Avoid invasive aquatic plants or animals in your pond – You may wonder how an invasive plant could cause problems in your pond, but a seed, vegetative piece (root, stem, leaf), pest or disease can spread inadvertently, even in the containers of non-invasive aquatic plants. Never dump plants or wildlife from your pond into our waterways. Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus), Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa), Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus), and Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) are just a few invasive plant examples. Take this list with you when you shop, so you will know which plants to avoid.
- Add a diversity of native emergent, floating, submerged and shoreline (marginal) plants. – Emergent, submerged and floating plants have leaves or stems partially or fully submerged in the water and provide underwater habitat (food, shelter, nesting sites, cleaner water). Dragonflies lay their eggs on many of these plants. Plants along the edge of the pond, sometimes called bank , marginal or shoreline plants, also provide habitat. Ask local nurseries or pond supply stores which plants would be appropriate for your size and type of pond. You can get a list of some appropriate native plants by using Carndo’s Native Browser Tool and selecting the soil moisture level.
- Plant a native garden near your pond – This will attract a diversity of wildlife to your yard which will then find and use your new wildlife pond.
|Native plants surround this Rain Exchange pond and another pond, both located at The Conservation Foundation’s McDonald Farm. The Rain Exchange pond recycles rain water. Both ponds were designed, constructed and donated by Aquascape.|
- Do not spray pesticides (herbicides, insecticides) near your pond or yard. – Dragonflies, frogs and other wildlife are very sensitive to pesticides in the air, water, plants and soil . Also their food sources, nesting sites and shelter, can all be negatively impacted by pesticides.
We are fortunate to have the company Aquascape local to our area. Please visit their St. Charles showroom to get ideas, ask questions, find supplies or a contractor in your area. Make sure your contractor knows you want a wildlife pond and feel free to share these suggestions and the below resources. Please add your suggestions or experiences if you have a wildlife pond in the comments below. Thank you. Denise Sandoval, Conservation@Home assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org