Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Fish - Flower Connection

( 35 F in Pure Florida predawn this morning )


Sunday morning, I took a bucket and a large D-frame dipnet down to the puddle that used to be my pond. As I approached, the great blue heron who thinks my pond is the heron equivalent of a Shoney's, screeched and flapped off into the trees.

I walked under the little dock and out into the black ooze until I entered the puddle. When the bucket was nestled in the mud, I began swishing the net through the shallow water in a "fish rescue" mission.

The young bream, mostly bluegills, warmouth, and spotted sunfish were easy to catch (just ask the heron) and it wasn't long before I had about 75 young fish in the bucket.



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The fish above are one small sample of the catch. I lugged the bucket back out of the pond and deposited the lucky refugees into a large 750 gallon aquaculture tank that had been sitting idle.



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This water scorpion came along for the net ride as did the cute little dragonfly nymph below. Both are predators and their presence got me thinking about a study done by University of Florida researchers.














It seems that there may be a link between the amount of fish in a pond and the wildflowers blooming along or near it's shore. A pond with a healthy fish population will generally have a reduced population of dragon flies due to the fish preying on the aquatic dragonfly nymphs. As a result, there will be less adult dragonflies patrolling the pond perimeter eating the pollinating insects who fertilize the wildflowers.
Fewer dragonflies chomping pollinators = more butterflies and other pollinators = more successful pollination = more seed production = more wildflowers.
In ponds with reduced fish populations, dragonfly nymphs flourished with the resulting larger adult dragonfly population.
More dragonflies chomping pollinators =less pollination = less seed production = less production of wildflowers.
















So, the fish in a pond may be inadvertently controlling the wildflower population around the pond. Who would have thought it?

Imagine the hidden ecological connections we haven't discovered yet.

Just imagine...





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16 comments:

threecollie said...

Cute is kind of a relative term when applied to a baby dragonfly. That is a real interesting connection between fish numbers and flower populations...and I am very glad you saved your poor fish.

Deb said...

That's what happens when you start thinking outside the box...er, pond. It makes me realize we don't know even a tiny bit of what's going on out there, all the complex interactions.

Nice post.

robin andrea said...

Many years ago there was a show on PBS called Connections, it was written and hosted by james burke. In it he traced unusual connections between and among things that we would not normally think were connected in any way. This post reminds me of that. This fish-wildflower connection is a wonderfully mind-expanding way of perceiving the intricacies of the natural world. Very cool.

Wayne said...

Neat. This seems completely possible to me. Add to it another factor - dragonfly nymphs also take down small fish. Here's another - they also take down tadpoles, but on the other hand, the adult frogs eat adult dragonflies! Maybe it's the frogs that are the keystone species.

Thunder Dave said...

I think I need to put together a couple of research grant proposals! I've got a couple in mind that may just lead to somehting, no benefit to anyone mind you, just something to keep me occupied. ;-)

Likes2mtnbike said...

It never fails to amaze me...just a couple hours upstate and a 30 degree difference. Dade City/Z-hills was always about 10 degrees cooler or hotter than my mom's place in Brandon and we loved it. I'm thinkin' 'bout moving back "up north" FLA.
(Can you tell I just love this weather we're having? Time to hit the hiking trails!)

Hurricane Teen said...

hmm fish controlling the appearance of wildflowers...whodathunkit?...I sure wish there was a fish that could control the appearance of big stucco houses...I would be loading every pond around here with them.

Floridacracker said...

ThreeCollie,
You have to squint and hold your mouth juuuust right to see the cuteness in a bug.

Deb,
It's the butterfly effect only with dragonflies :)

Robin,
I love Connections ... just loved it! Great series.

Wayne,
Throw in this too, I have cleaned largemouth bass that were stuffed with adult dragonflies. I assume they were taking them as they made those little dips they do at the surface.

ThunderD,
I thought your home brewery kept you occupied :)

Likes2mtnbike,
It was brisk riding to work in the topless JEEP predawn today. I got the "you must be crazy" looks from coworkers when I pulled up.

HTeen,
You need a snail darter nearby.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

You might have something there and Wayne may have it also. We have an over population of fish in our pond and this year there were many dragon flies, but someone had gigged the adult frog population. Of course, my son weedeated around the pond, so no wildflowers either because of him, around the pond.

Ava said...

Hey!

I'm back on line!!!

Ava

Mrs. S said...

I can't imagine... it hurts (what's left of) my brain.

vicki said...

Now that's a line of logic I can follow- makes sense to me. Will you keep the wee fish in the tank until the pond fills and how long do you think that will be? How closely does the ecology there simulate the pond? Did you put the bugs in too? Questions, questions...

Abby was delighted with the cooler weather this morning- let me know she was wearing a sweater I knit her last spring she thought she would never wear. I'm down again in a week as the house project draws to a close. Getting ready to "move in" in January.

Likes2mtnbike said...

Hurry, Vicki, it's only like this for a while!

Floridacracker said...

Sandy,
I had a great bullfrog population before that otter showed. Now all the big'ns are gone and all that's left are a bunch of small ones.

Ava,
That's so weird. I was just wondering last night what happened to ya.

Mrs. S,
Well, you are thinking for two :)

Vicki,
(your site is so slow to load, I'm sorry I haven't been by)
The fish can live in the tank for a long time, it's big. There's minnows to eat and volunteer water bugs and dfly nymphs.Glad to hear your house remodel is almost done.

Likes2mtnbike,
Words of wisdom ... and experience.

Ericka said...

ooh, i'd forgotten 'connections.' that show rocked!

i'm glad you rescued your fishies. every year, we have the great pollywog rescue where we scoop up as many of the tadpoles on the pool cover as we can and move 'em to the neighbors' pond.

hmm. makes sense to me. cool!

Floridacracker said...

Ericka,
Makes sense to me too!