On the 13th of March 2018, the Amazing GIG homeschool group did a pond clearing project on the Phillipskop Mountain Reserve.
The problem being tackled was an unusual one. The plants threatening the pond were not invasive or even aliens! They were native water plants and grass. They were slowly growing into the pond and taking up space through a natural process called succession. If left alone, in a few years the pond would become a marsh and then dry ground. This was a problem, as this pond was a habitat for many water creatures, and a water source for the people on the neighbouring reserve. So we decided that it was time to take action.
We arrived at the pond at 2:30 pm and saw how overgrown the pond was. The plants being targeted that day were lilies, reeds and an island of grass that had grown in the middle of the pond. Each of us grabbed a spade or a pitchfork and proceeded to clear the pond. Some of us headed for the island with spades and began to dig it up and throw the dirt to the bank. Others grabbed lilies out of the pond with their hands and threw them off a nearby cliff, still others; used pitchforks to loosen the soil around the roots of the reeds, and pull them up these too were thrown off the cliff. Later in the day, the manager of Phillipskop arrived with two of the workers, and joined in. At 4:30 we had moved back the plants substantially, and stopped for the day.
My friends and I found about 7 to 9 frogs in the pond. There were probably a lot more as well. If the pond had dried out, these frogs would have to migrate to a new habitat, which would mean hopping around exposed to predators, like herons and snakes.
While digging around the island, some of us found a couple of crabs. These were also likely to be a few of a bigger number in the pond, and would also have lost their home had it have dried out.
The reeds were very difficult to get out in some places. Their roots were well lodged in the soil at the bottom of the pond. This made pulling them up very difficult at times.
At the end of the day I was tired and muddy, but I was also excited to have helped in an important activity to help look after the nature around us. This is something that needs to be done over and over again each year, as the plants slowly take back lost ground, so while this was the first time we did this, it is probably not the last, and we are certainly not the first to try and push back the plants.
In this part of the world, alien plants are a big problem, and we have already undertaken to clear them away in the past, but there are lots more of them, and this “pond clearing” was only one battle in the war to look after the natural world around us.