One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from lakefront property owners is related to “how to get rid of those pesky lake weeds”. The fact is, “those weeds”, are often native (non-invasive) aquatic plants that play an extremely important role in keeping your lake healthy and in ecological balance and should be removed only after consulting a lake professional or aquatic biologist and after gaining approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Inland lakes exist in one of two distinct stable states: Either green algae dominated with poor water transparency or aquatic plant dominated with good water transparency. Which type of lake would you prefer to live on? Would you care to guess which type of lake hosts lakefront homes with the greatest property values? How about good fishing? Which type of lake supports the best opportunity to catch a trophy largemouth bass or northern pike? If you guessed the aquatic plant dominated lake, than you are absolutely correct!
Native aquatic plants serve as effective integrators of ecological conditions within your lake and react slowly and progressively to changes in nutrient levels and are recognized as valuable long term indicator of overall water quality. Aquatic plants are reinforced by and exert influence on many important aspects of your lake’s ecology including sediment stability, water transparency, the establishment and maintenance of moderate biological productivity levels and the promotion and sustainability of plant and animal life. Aquatic plant communities also provide critical nesting areas and organic building materials as well as food for an abundance of inland lake fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. In addition, aquatic plant borne micro-organisms living on plant material forms an important food base for macro-invertebrates that in-turn directly support other lake-dwelling species through a diverse and complex food web. Moreover, emergent and floating aquatic plants serve to protect inland lake shoreline habitat from the erosive affects of wave action. Submerged aquatic plants play a particularly important role in aquatic ecosystems due to their numerous critical functions associated with nutrient and organic matter turnover, the provision of shallow water complexity and variability, shelter from predation, food, and fish spawning areas. Submerged aquatic plants also provide numerous mechanisms that foster and sustain high quality, clear water conditions by significantly reducing turbidity, increasing sedimentation rates, suppressing fine and coarse organic particulate re-suspension, uptake of vital limiting nutrients, and the provision of complex shelter for phytoplankton grazers.
Due to their vital importance in supporting and sustaining healthy freshwater fish communities, overall aquatic ecosystem bio-diversity and in contributing to the stability of high quality, moderately productive inland lakes, ecologists from Michigan Department of Natural Resources have strongly recommended that native aquatic plants not be removed or reduced under any circumstances. So please, be a good lake steward and consult a lake manager or aquatic biologist before removing native aquatic plants from around your dock or from your lakefront shoreline – the health of your lake and the value of your lakefront property depends on it!