Wet weather brings small treasures: vernal pools

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Like most people, radio stations, diner conversations and forecasters, the talk of late has been about the dreaded wet weather we have been experiencing. Even when the sun does come out, we have a long ways to go before the fields dry up.

Although it may feel good to vent, complaining doesn’t change the situation. We basically have no control over Mother Nature. With that being said, I’d like to think of some of the positive things that come with the wet spring and summer. I’m taking about the wonders of vernal pools, streams and wetlands.

Reconnect

If you are like me — and I’m not sure what generation “name” I’ve been put into — you probably grew up playing outside. I remember playing hide and go seek outside, getting lost in the big fields and pastures and catching crawfish and anything else I could in the nearby stream.

Of course today, most children don’t go anywhere without their cell phones, MP3 players or portable video games, let alone do anything fun outside. That’s a whole other situation I don’t want to get into.

Anyway, if you can remember the time you spent exploring the great outdoors, your own wild backyard or just having fun as a kid, then you know what I’m talking about.

Good news is, you don’t have to be a kid to still enjoy these same things, and you don’t have to go alone. Take an old friend with you, or better yet, take a child or a young adult to experience it with you. You might be surprised when you open your eyes to the life and connections our wet world offers.

What is a vernal pool?

Those small pools or “temporary” ponds we have right now in our fields, low lying areas and in the woods are actually important habitats for many amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants.

A vernal pool is not connected to a stream, river or lake, and usually is less than 3 feet deep and often completely dry by the end of summer. Vernal pools have been around for a long time, and like many other forms of wetlands, have been filled in, drained or destroyed before we realized the importance and benefits they provide.

This temporary pool we now have outside is a great place to explore. They are open 24 hours a day, so take a flashlight to explore and listen after dark.

Ecosystem

They are perfect breeding grounds for frogs, toads and salamanders. They do not contain predatory fish populations and are a vital and important part of our natural world. Many frogs, toads and salamanders return each year to the same location to breed. They migrate to the same special place, although 100 meters may be a long haul for the little fellows.

Vernal pools also provide easy water for animals and birds. Look for tracks and signs of other life using the pool. Catch up on some of the common creatures you might find there in this wet area. Leopard frogs, wood frogs, grey tree frogs, spotted salamanders, Jefferson salamanders, painted turtles, dragonflies and damselflies and of course many types of insect larva, beetles and macroinvertebrates depend on vernal pools. This important ecosystem is full of life. Bring a child with you!

Since it’s obviously too wet to get any field work done, we can learn to share our valuable natural resources with others. Share with the future generations that will be taking care of the land when we are gone. It’s is extremely important to allow all humans to connect with nature.

We need to get back to appreciating and understanding our natural world and its wonderful resources. We care about things we understand. If nobody shares or experiences the fields, woods, vernal pools or streams, then they have a hard time caring about them or the habitat they provide for other living creatures.

Ninety percent of vernal pools and wetlands in Ohio have been destroyed. Either people don’t know what vernal pools are, or they don’t care, and they do not preserve them.

Importance

These temporary pools help slow floodwater, filter sediment, replenish groundwater and filter pollutants from waterways. Not to mention they are important breeding grounds for many migrating creatures.

So, my advice is don’t worry about the weather, we can’t control that. Get outside, take in the great wet habitats, and be thankful that we don’t live near the mighty Mississippi River.

Happy exploring to all!

About the Author

Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org. More Stories by Kelly Riley

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