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Discover Micro-Habitats in Vernal Pools

Vernal pools are shallow ponds that dot high ground... often in pastures and parks. They can even be manmade -- formed when a piece of heavy equipment rolls off a dirt road and creates a trough that fills with water during winter storms.

But these spots don’t dry up a few days after it rains. They can last several weeks, long enough to create habitat for dozens of species including shrimp, frogs, worms, insects and water-loving plants, some of which have nearly disappeared from local habitats.

Also called "seasonal wetlands", vernal pools are wonderful places to explore, especially with children equipped with a hand magnifying lens, a little net and abundant curiosity.

Vernal Pools in California

San Diego is focusing attention on this fast disappearing habitat -- a growing effort is being made to study, restore and safeguard ponds that once covered about 200 square miles of San Diego County in Southern California.

About 3 percent of historical vernal pools remain in Southern California, typically on mesas that are popular for development projects. The rest have been bulldozed to make way for roads, homes and businesses.

Destruction of the ponds has eased in the past decade because landowners risk federal penalties and lawsuits from conservation groups if they harm protected plants and animals living there. In several places across San Diego County, including Montgomery Field and an elementary school site in Otay Mesa, the pools have slowed or halted expansion plans. Roughly 2,500 vernal-pool basins were identified in the city of San Diego during an inventory completed in the early 2000s.

Vernal pools also appear in the Mediterranean climate zone from southern Oregon to northern Baja California. They form in soil depressions where layers of hardpan clay prevent rain from percolating into the groundRead more...

BUT... Researchers and wildlife advocates describe vernal ecosystems as biological gold mines. One of their most important functions is providing protein, in the form of tiny invertebrates, for amphibians and migrating birds.

Buried in the ground of vernal basins are countless seeds and cysts that can survive for a decade or more until they’re brought to life by standing water. In wet years, the pools will spill over the top and carry seeds to other spots. That mixing of genes helps life-forms continue to evolve, as they have for eons.

Read more at the SOURCE:

Vernal Pools in Massachusetts

The Vernal Pool Association began as an environmental outreach project at Reading Memorial High School, Reading, Massachusetts. It is now an independent group of individuals attempting to educate others about vernal pool ecology, the local environment, bio-diversity, and the protection of our resources. View a variety of photos of vernal pools at their website.