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Threatened Habitats | Low Impact Development | Greenscapes

Urban Ponds

Because natural landscapes are so scarce in urban environments, natural resources are generally highly valued.  Natural ponds are one such resource, but because they are highly cherished (and thus heavily used), urban life takes its toll on them in several ways.


Urban life can change a pond’s natural evolution.  Most ponds in New England were either carved by the glaciers or created by man-made dams.  The rate that a water body changes from clear open water to wetland marsh and then to wet meadow is influenced by physical characteristics such as size, depth, hydrology, and supply of sediments and nutrients.  In urban areas, this aging process is accelerated.


The natural hydrology of a pond often is altered by human activities, such as flow diversion and water removal.  Stormwater runoff from the impervious surfaces of streets and buildings may wash sediments and pollutants into ponds. Nutrients from lawn and garden fertilizers, animal waste, and septic systems can lead to algal blooms and dense native or non-native aquatic plant growth – in other words, to excessive nutrient enrichment and eutrophication.  All of these inputs accelerate a pond’s transition to a wetland marsh, often to the dismay of its human admirers.


In the spring of 2010, SSCW engaged a team of graduate students from the Tufts Universtity Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning to research and report on community and regulatory issues that arise from the need for effective pond management.

Their report is available as a 5 MB PDF for the public:

Planning for Effective Pond Management in the Salem Sound Watershed.