The Vernal Pond Comes To Life
A continuing story of the pond one year after the installation.
Vernal Pond Installation
Vernal ponds are seasonal wetlands that are usually quite small and are covered by shallow water during the wetter part of the year. Climatic changes associated with each season cause dramatic changes in the appearance of and the flora and fauna associated with vernal ponds. Common animals seen at vernal ponds include toads and frogs, salamanders and dragon flies. A variety of bird life is attracted to the pools which are used as a seasonal source of food and water. In many areas, vernal ponds are disappearing due to sprawl patterns of growth, and efforts are being made to protect and restore them, as their disappearance marks the loss of important habitat for associated plants and animals.
Tom Biebighauser, a Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, was the lead consultant for implementing the installation of the vernal pond. In the following message, Tom explains:
Purpose and Need
Wetlands provide great opportunities for outdoor learning. Students can be taught more about science and mathematics by experiencing lessons firsthand. Wetlands are rare habitats in Kentucky. There are few places available to experience these fascinating ecosystems.
Building a wetland will clean run-off, reduce flooding, and recharge groundwater, thereby benefiting the local community. Wetlands will also increase wildlife viewing opportunities and enhance the beauty of the community.
The wetland was designed to provide habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, bats, crustaceans, amphibians, and reptiles. The wetland may also provide habitat for less common species such as the spotted salamander, wood frog, spadefoot, and fairy shrimp.
The wetland measuring 30-feet in diameter was built by using a liner to ensure water will be held in the pond. Excess soil was placed on the slopes of the pond to improve student access, and make it easier to mow.
A fallen tree was returned from the surrounding tree line to discourage vehicle traffic and to provide habitat for amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Native flowering plants were planted to provide food and shelter for birds, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and insects.
Specifications for Wetland Establishment
The goal of the project is to establish a naturally appearing and functioning wetland that will require little to no maintenance. The wetland was developed by using the techniques described in Wetland Restoration and Construction-A Technical Guide by Thomas R. Biebighauser: http://www.thewetlandtrust.org/wetlandrestorationbook.html
The wetland was marked by using colored plastic ribbons. Soils were shaped into a shallow basin to establish a small wetland approximately 30-feet in diameter. The slopes surrounding the wetland are gradual, 5-percent or less, with water depths of 16-inches or less. The wetland is large enough for 30 or more students to investigate without crowding.
The topsoil was saved and spread following construction. Small dips and piles of soil were placed randomly in the wetland to restore pit and mound topography. The piles vary in size and height and were not compacted so they will grow aquatic plants and trees. Logs, branches, and leaves were added to the wetland to improve habitat for wildlife.
Exposed soils were sown to wheat and mulched with wheat straw. Slopes are kept gradual, and the wetland basin is using a low profile to maintain overland flow.
Contracting & Supplies
Scott and Ritter, Inc. the awarded general contractor for the whole HFH project, donated the excavator and operator to complete the pond.
A synthetic liner was used to build the wetland, as neither groundwater or clay soils are present on the site. The liner is a PVC, 30-mil, fish-grade & aquatic safe, one piece and factory seamed.
Geo-textile pads were needed to protect the liner. The geo-textile pads are 8-ounce weight, fish-grade and aquatic safe, one piece according to measurements. One was placed under and another over the liner before it was covered with soil. No heavy equipment was allowed to travel over the liner and geo-textile pads. The synthetic liner and geo-textile pads were purchased and sent from Fabseal Industrial Liners, Inc. in Shawnee, OK.
Smooth landscape spikes, 12-inches long, were used for anchoring the top edge of the liners.
Wheat was sown on exposed soils the same day the wetland was completed for controlling erosion. A rain came in that night and saturated the seeds and soil and we had grass the following week. Do not use rye or oats; wheat works best and is non-invasive.
To reduce erosion and to increase plant survival, the outer areas of exposed soil were covered with a layer of wheat straw. Do not use hay as it contains too many weeds that can be difficult to control later.
An assortment of potted native aquatic plants were purchased from GROWILD in Fairview, TN at their fall sale October 20, 2012.
On October 25, 2012, Robin Hume and Nancy Givens planted: Hibiscus coccinea, Solidago patula, Caltha palustris, Helianthus angustifolius, Iris fulva, Cephalanthus occidentalis, and Ludwigia. For more information about the plants used in the vernal pond, click here.
For a five minute slideshow of the vernal pond installation, click here.
For a larger view of the pictures, click the picture.
The wetland was marked by using colored plastic ribbons. The first scoop of soil is removed for the installation of the pond.
The soil was shaped into a shallow basin to establish a small wetland approximately 30-feet in diameter.
The first layer of Geo-textile pad is laid to protect the liner from punctures occurring from underneath.
Some large woody debris was placed in the pond from the surrounding tree line to discourage vehicle traffic, and to provide habitat for amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds.