A 6-Tiered Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Balance is Mother Nature’s version of perfection. When we investigate a naturally beautiful environment—a balanced ecosystem is often revealed. Balanced ecosystems provide beauty; on the contrary, an imbalance may cause an ecosystem’s lack of visual appeal.
Just as a duck seems to float effortlessly across the water—but is working diligently just out of view—your pond’s aesthetic is powered by a series of intricate and unseen processes. Its ecological balance is maintained by an interconnected, interdependent, and complex ecosystem—understanding it necessitates peering beneath the surface.
The ecosystem of your backyard pond is a scaled-down version of naturally-occurring ponds, and its natural balance will be just as sensitive. One element askew can upset the balance of the entire ecosystem. A well-designed, constructed and maintained pond supports a healthy ecosystem.
Your backyard pond serves as foundation for a six-tier wildlife habitat which works to keep the natural ecosystem in balance.
Tier 1: Plants and algae, bacteria, phytoplankton and protozoa power the nitrogen cycle and catalyze the breakdown of toxic waste. The nitrogen cycle is the process by which nitrogen is changed into different chemical forms to move between plants, animals, bacteria, air and soil.
Tier 2: Zooplankton consists of daphnia and rotifers and are small, often microscopic, creatures. Not always found naturally occurring in backyard ponds, zooplankton usually require pond fertilization prior to introduction.
Tier 3: Larval insects, worms, snails, and insects are seen as a nuisance by some, but serve to keep tiers 1 and 2 in balance.
Tier 4: Amphibians, including frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts provide visual and auditory appeal in addition to supporting balance by feeding on lower tiers.
Tier 5: Fish — the piece de resistance of most ponds — are usually omnivorous and feed on plants and other organisms from tiers 1-4.
Tier 6: Birds, reptiles, snakes, turtles, and mammals are attracted to your pond as a source of food and water. As they often arrive as uninvited guests, many pond owners employ a variety of eco-friendly tactics to keep their fish safe.
Ponds have a predictable maturing process which begins at formation. Incorporating plants, fish and an efficient filtration system to your backyard pond will accelerate its aging process. Ponds aging process begins at formation: the moment you fill your pond for the first time, nutrients and algae begin the nitrogen cycle. Algae serves as food source to zooplankton (tier 2), which become natural food sources for tier 3’s larval insects, worms, snails and insects. Tier 4 amphibians feed on the previous tiers, keeping their growth in balance. Fish (tier 5) consume from each tier and serve as a food source for tier 6. Fish excreta breakdown (via the nitrogen cycle) catalyzes algae growth, restarting the cycle.
Understanding how pond stability is established will help with troubleshooting when balance goes awry. A pond’s beauty and its balance are inherently connected—an example of Mother Nature’s perfection.