Natural and anthropogenic factors, such as plant diversity and surface runoff, can influence inputs to ponds and lakes in suburban areas, affecting their suitability for research or recreation. Shallow, stagnant suburban ponds can become eutrophic due to fertilizer runoff and may include automotive pollutants from pavement runoff and household trash. Recreational ponds must be carefully managed to maintain water quality standards and fish health. Ponds used by educational institutions must also be safe for small children. Seeking recommendations to maximize the educational benefits of an outdoor classroom, local teachers requested an evaluation of their school pond and adjacent wetland. This pond is utilized for PK-5 educational programs and is part of a stream network that includes a municipal wastewater treatment facility and is annually stocked for children’s fishing events. Physical, chemical and biological characteristics of this system were measured to assess water quality and ecological integrity. With a maximum depth of only 85 cm, the study site harbors small populations of grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and warms up to 32°C in the summer. Benthic invertebrate diversity and abundance was low (<5 individuals per sample), and species recovered during dip net sampling were pollution tolerant. Isolated bacteria included lactose and nonlactose-fermenting fecal coliforms and nitrogen reducing gram negative bacteria. It is unknown at this time if the isolated species are pathogenic; bacterial community analysis is ongoing. Dissolved oxygen content ranged between 5.0 and 6.2 mg/L, pH was low (5-7) and conductivity was high (80-110 μS), indicating potentially unsuitable habitat for sensitive animal species. Nitrogen and potassium content of benthic sediment was poor while potassium levels were high. Chemical analysis of water samples for heavy metals and pesticides is forthcoming. Initial recommendations were made to the local school board to remove the fish, break the dam and allow the area to transition from pond to bog habitat. The school can use the standing infrastructure to maintain a bog garden, and there is the potential for cultivation of locally rare bog species, such as Sarracenia leucophylla. It would be less expensive to maintain than a fish pond and eliminates any concerns associated with water safety.

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