0 Restoring Waterbodies on the Golf Course

water 2 Many golf courses implement much energy into creating or incorporating water features as an important element on their course. Water features add hugely to the aesthetic value and uniqueness of a course, while at the same time being a vital element of many habitats. Any form of waterbody should not be underestimated regarding its biodiversity value.

Any water ecosystem located on a golf course should be maintained in good condition. Many golf courses have numerous water bodies located on their grounds and from experience many are in poor repair and unmanaged. Restoration of these precious features should be a high priority on the list of improvements on the course and haven spoken to numerous superintendents, it appears that there is a push in the golf course industry to gain a better understanding about all environmental issues on the course, including water bodies. Restoration is essential in order to recover ecosystems that have been degraded. The basis behind waterbody restoration should lie in the reasoning of returning a degraded waterbody ecosystem to its highest potential biodiversity state (3).

Function of waterbodies

Waterbodies have numerous important functions including:

  • Surface water storage
  • Maintenance of water tables
  • Transformation and cycling of elements
  • Protection of diverse flora and fauna communities
  • Aesthetics
  • Role in the food web (2)

Water bodies are hugely important in the landscape, helping to reduce downstream flood peaks and allowing hydrophilic plant survival. Wetlands supply essential ground water for tree and plant growth and also contain detritus and nutrients as important food sources for many species, playing an important role in the cycling of energy within the system. They also provide nesting, cover and escape for an array of wildlife.

Waterbody Degradation
water 3
Waterbodies can become degraded from a list of sources and in many forms. Pollutants, urban runoff and evasion by non native species or exotic species are the most common means of degradation occurring in streams, ponds and other wetland areas. Restoration of these systems involves returning a degraded waterbody to good condition or enhancing the condition of the waterbody.

Restoring Waterbodies

The basic factor involved in waterbody restoration is to remove the degrading factor. Therefore, this degrading factor (or factors) needs to be identified and then dealt with in a sustainable manner. Taking a close look at the area as a whole will make this process a lot easier.

Deciding what the factors are can be the first major step towards restoration, for example, excess nutrients entering a waterbody from runoff. Simple steps to help remove the degrading factor, in such a situation could involve adding a bufferzone (no-spray zone) around the water, decreasing the use of nutrients, and altering the nutrient plan for the course. Excessive inputs of nutrients, accelerates the eutrophication process and causes serious water quality problems, limiting diversity of aquatic biota and hampering water flow.

Simple steps can make a notable difference. Many golf courses experience high amounts of sediment from erosion entering their waters. One solution to this type of problem is to stabilise slopes with vegetation. The vegetation will hold the soil in place better and it will be less vulnerable to erosion. The vegetation can in turn act as a valuable habitat for many species.

There are also more complicated and more expensive steps that may be called for to restore the condition of the waterbody. These could include:

  • Recontoring a site to suit the waterbody, e.g., to change flowing patterns.
  • Removing exotic evasive species.
  • Planting banks with native high biodiversity supporting species.

grove 2 Carrying out the more complicated steps above, require higher financial inputs, and should be carried out with a realistic plan in mind, with clear objectives decided upon. Advice from an expert in this area could help save the course both time and money in the long run.

With correct management of a waterbody there is no need to invest in the use of waterdyes, aquatic herbicides or algicides. Adding dyes or algicides may correct the aesthetic problem periodically, for example, murky or off-coloured water, but these products will just work for a limited time.

The underlying problem i.e. the causal agent is not fully dealt with (the degrading factor is not removed), for example, excess nutrients entering the system. Also using aquatic herbicides will rid the system of important plant habitats essential for many wildlife species in terms of food, cover and actual habitat. Natural functions of filtering and oxygenation will also be removed in the process. With the application of such chemicals, the natural regeneration in wetlands can be compromised. Therefore, planning for optimal biodiversity value and natural aesthetics is fundamental.

Implementing a Restoration Project

There are four steps involved in implementing a successful and long lasting restoration project (1). These are:

1. Planning
2. Implementation
3. Monitoring
4. Long-term Management

Understanding the surrounding natural landscape is very important. It is critical to create or restore waterbodies that fit the landscape and do not look out of place on the course.

Also setting realistic goals is important, so planning to meet these optimal goals will become a reality. Understanding the basic concepts of water flow and properties, for example, getting water to run down a slope is a lot easier than expecting it to run up a slope! Ensuring the labour/finance is available to complete the project is probably the first step and working from a realistic budget will make things a lot easier along the way.

The topography of a site influences in many ways how a waterbody acts, for example, sloped areas affect water movement rates and patterns differently to flat areas. Other features to take into consideration include soil types, elevation, precipitation and watershed patterns. Understanding these elements will greatly enhance the success of any actions planned.

It is a well know fact that working along with mother-nature is a lot easier than working against. Looking forward to how any changes made may influence other areas of the course is important. Predicting possible knock-on effects from any changes made on the course in a particular area is very important. One does not want to simply move problems in one area to another on the course or restoring a particular waterbody only to adversely affect another.

Keeping an eye on the restoration project is imperative to ensure its success. Monitoring the system after completion of the restoration project is also beneficial. Measuring water quality, in terms of turbidity, nutrients, algal blooms and general look of the system are simple steps to be periodically carried out.

Monitoring macroinvetebrate communities can give an indication of water quality and diversity value. Observing macroinvetebrate communities over time can also give you an indication in the diversity enhancement which will gradually occur naturally once the ecosystem has been improved. Being aware of the waterbodies on the course should be an integral part of the management plan on the course. Simple actions like visually looking at a water sample for sediment can help in decision making and taking actions before major problems occur in the system.

Ensuring all waterbodies are maintained as part of the overall management strategy on the course after restoration is complete is crucial. It is important to preserve and protect the aquatic resource as well as restore the ecological integrity or condition of the system. Therefore the 'action plan' should be designed to favor natural processes and communities in the system.

It is also important to restore the natural structure and function of the waterbody. More than likely the system came under stress / difficulty after alterations in the system or surrounding landscape occurred, leading to habitat degradation and diminished aesthetic appeal. By implementing a restoration plan on the course, it is possible to re-establish original biodiversity value of a waterbody, or indeed even surpass it.

About the author

Mary Purcell is carrying out research for a doctorate degree in Environmental Science at University College Dublin in the School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering. For more information contact Mary at mary.purcell@ucd.ie

1. IWWR (2003) An introduction and users guide to restoration, creation and enhancement. Interagency Workgroup on Wetland Restoration. http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/pdf/restdocfinal.pdf
2. NWCA (2006) Wetland conservation and restoration. National Wetlands Conservation Alliance http://users.erols.com/wetlandg/#des
3. USEPA (2000) Principles of the ecological restoration of aquatic resources. www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/restore/principles.htm#1
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