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[DNR] Plant growth down in northeast Indiana lakes
Start Date: 8/27/2013Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 8/27/2013End Time: 11:59 PM
Entry Description
Northeast Indiana’s cooler and wetter weather this summer may be good for corn and soybeans, but DNR officials say the conditions are stifling aquatic plant growth in area lakes and may be harming fish.

The cooler, wetter weather delayed aquatic plant growth, and the increased rain meant more sediment washed into the lakes, thereby blocking sunlight such plants need from penetrating the water.

“We’ve seen significant declines in water clarity and the abundance of aquatic plants in several lakes this year,” said Jed Pearson, DNR fisheries biologist. “As a result, habitat conditions for fish are not as good as they should be.”

Aquatic plants provide cover for many fish species. They also support aquatic insects that fish eat. But more important, aquatic plants tie up nutrients that otherwise go into producing plankton algae blooms.

“Plankton algae blooms cause the water to turn green and reduce water clarity even further,” he said. “They can lower the amount of oxygen in a lake and stress fish.”

Turbid water, whether due to algae or runoff of soil, also can make it difficult for sight-feeding fish to find food.

“Aquatic plants, therefore, play a key role in keeping things in balance in our lakes,” Pearson said.

The decline in water clarity and aquatic plants has been most apparent at Winona Lake in Warsaw.

Water clarity in the 562-acre Kosciusko County natural lake typically averages 6 feet in late summer. Aquatic plants normally grow to a depth of 17 feet. This year water clarity was 2 feet, and few plants were present.

“We conducted a plant survey in early August at Winona and found only six species of aquatic plants compared to 16 species in 2007,” Pearson said. “The plants that were present were sparse. Overall plant coverage declined 63 percent.”

Coontail, the most abundant plant in Winona in 2007, was virtually gone. Eel grass, the second most abundant plant, was down 80 percent.

At Rome City’s Sylvan Lake, a 667-acre impoundment in Noble County, water clarity was less than 2 feet.

As a result, plant coverage dropped 38 percent from last summer, and only two species were present. Both species were targets of stepped-up herbicide applications in June. Herbicides were also applied to 36 acres of water at Winona Lake in June.

“We normally approve permits for weed control based on expectations of typical growth patterns under typical weather conditions,” Pearson said. “Last year our lakes were clearer and had more vegetation due to warm and dry weather. As a result, we got more weed complaints. This year has been just the opposite.”

Weather was probably the main factor in reduced water clarity and plant coverage in lakes, but adding herbicides didn’t help.

“We may need to reduce the amount of weed control at Sylvan, Winona and a few other lakes next year, based on what happened this year,” Pearson said.
Contact Information:
Name: Jed Pearson
Phone: (260) 244-6805
Email: dnrnews@dnr.in.gov
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Entry Category:
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