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Lake and Pond Facts

If you look up the distinction between a lake and a pond, you can find all manner of conflicting facts on how they differentiate from each other. As one would imagine, size is not exactly a guide because some potential lakes have been referred to as ponds while some significantly huge ponds have been called lakes.

For instance, in New Hampshire, Echo Lake is 14 acres with its greatest depth at 11 feet, while Island Pond is around 500 acres with a maximum depth of 80 feet. This shows that, instead of calling them according to the scientific definition, water bodies are named following what looks more enticing and can sell more property.

Either way, the general consensus is that lakes are more extensive than ponds. Even more specific is that ponds allow more light to pass through to the bottom than lakes.

Lakes vary in size and shape and can range from only a few square meters to thousands of square kilometers. They also vary in scale and diversity of inhabited species.

Many of the ponds and lakes worldwide are remnants of the Pleistocene glaciation, while some are human-made. Many ponds are seasonal, lasting just a few months, while lakes can exist for hundreds of years or more (such as sessile pools).

As they are often separated from other forms of water bodies, such as rivers and seas, ponds and lakes can have limited species diversity. There are three different “zones” that are used in their classification as either ponds or lakes. These zones are typically defined by depth and distance from the shoreline.

Lake and Pond Facts for Kids

  • They are formed through various geographic events 
  • They are characterized by three habitats, pelagic, littoral, and benthic zones.
  • Light and temperature are the most important features
  • They support different forms of life
  • The temperature in pond and lake water varies seasonally
  • Their chemistry is influenced by physical, chemical, and biological processes
  • There are two types of ponds; temporary and permanent
  • Lakes exist as either fresh or salty water lakes
  • They have a place in the history of mankind
  • They are a key contributor to the water cycle
  • A Freshwater biome includes lakes and ponds

Formation of ponds and lakes

Lakes and ponds are formed through a range of events, including glacial, tectonic, and volcanic activities. However, most are formed as a consequence of glacial processes. When a glacier diminishes, it may leave behind an irregular surface containing holes that fill up with water.

At the end of the Pleistocene period (ten thousand to twenty thousand years ago), glacial activity led to the creation of much of the lakes and ponds in the Northern Hemisphere, including North America’s Great Lakes.

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Facts for Kids

Many of the oldest (more than three hundred thousand years old) lakes and ponds are created by tectonic action due to the displacement of the crust of the Earth. For example, Lake Baikal in Siberia was created by the displacement of tectonic plates and is the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume.

Volcanic activities can contribute to the creation of lakes and ponds as well. The fall of a volcanic cone at Mount Mazama in Oregon, for instance, contributed to Crater Lake’s creation, the world’s seventh deepest lake. 

Two kinds of ponds exist

  • Permanent
  • Temporary

Year-round, permanent ponds exist year-round, whereas temporary or vernal ponds typically form in the spring as depressions in the field are filled by rain and melting snow. In the summer, vernal ponds dry up.

For frogs and other amphibians, vernal ponds are essential as they act as their spawning grounds. Some species are also adapted to live during the dry season. For instance, many algae and protozoa dig into the mud and make a cyst or hardcover!

This helps preserve them until the pounds fill up with water gain during the wet season. Often named vernal pools are vernal ponds.

Physical and Chemical attributes of lakes and ponds

Two main physical characteristics are light and temperature. The sun’s light is captured, distributed, and mirrored as it travels across the Earth’s atmosphere, the water’s surface, and in the water. A variety of variables, including the time of the day, season, latitude, and temperature, impact the amount and intensity of light reaching the surface of a lake or pond.

Water attributes, including the volume of particulates and the composition of dissolved chemicals, influence the intensity and quantity of light flowing into the lake or pond water. Further, dissolved organic material, for example, affects how deep light or ultraviolet wavelengths reach into the water.

Light and wind interact to influence water temperature. Many lakes experience a phenomenon called thermal stratification, which causes three distinct water temperature regions.

Walter is warm in the shallowest layer (called the epilimnion) in autumn, while water is cold in the deepest layer (called the hypolimnion). However, the Metalimnion, the middle zone, is an area of the rapid shift in temperature.

The thermal stratification pattern is reversed during winter. This makes the epilimnion is warmer than the hypolimnion. As rapidly shifting air temperatures and wind induces mixing during fall and spring, thermal stratification tends to down in several water reservoirs.

Not all lakes adopt this general trend, though. Just once a year, some lakes combine while others mix regularly. 

A set of chemical, physical, and biological processes influence chemistry. Dissolved oxygen content, mineral concentration, and pH are the major chemical properties of lakes and ponds.

Oxygen sources in water bodies include diffusion at the water’s surface, mixing of oxygen-rich surface waters with deeper waters, s well as photosynthesis. Oxygen depletion occurs during the respiration of living organisms and because of chemical reactions binding oxygen.

In lakes and ponds, the two most important resources are nitrogen and phosphorus. In most lakes and rivers, the amount of algae is restricted by the presence of phosphorus, while the restricting resources in the ocean are nitrogen and iron. Water acidity, defined as pH, represents the concentration of hydrogen ions. 

The pH value falls between 6.0 and 9.0 for most lakes and ponds (the pH value of distilled water is 7). Low pH factors induced by volcanic activity, acid-releasing plants around lakes, and acid rain diversely impact certain marine ecosystems. 

 Diversity in pond and lakes

Three major habitats are identified

  • Pelagic zone
  • Littoral zone
  • Benthic zone

The open water region is the pelagic zone. In wide reservoirs, part of the amount of the lake is taken up by the pelagic region.

The inshore region where light penetrates to the bottom is the littoral zone. Huge, rooted plants called macrophytes are sometimes found in this zone. The lake or reservoir bottom regions that are not part of the littoral region are classified as benthic.

This zone contains fine plant-life-free sediments as light levels are too limited to sustain the growth of plants.

Usually, lakes and ponds comprise a variety of species that serve numerous ecological functions. Some of these in water bodies are microscopic and can only be observed using a microscope. For example, the pond ecosystem will have planktons, which are small marine species with little to no locomotion.

They include bacteria, algae, and zooplankton. Moreover, several larger vertebrate species, including fish and amphibians, occupy lakes and ponds. Birds such as ducks, rodents like beavers, and reptiles such as snakes are some others commonly inhabiting lake and pond areas. 

Large ponds and lakes can support up to four trophic levels or types of water organisms that derive energy in the same manner. For instance, phytoplankton, zooplankton, planktivorous (plankton-eating) fish, and piscivorous (fish-eating) fish are the main trophic levels in the pelagic zone (open water area).

Owing to their function in decomposition and nutrient recycling, microbes such as bacteria and protists are also essential in lakes and ponds. The food web in the pelagic region is correlated to the inshore food system since the inshore areas are used for shelter and food by many mobile species in this zone. 

Lakes, ponds and the history of humanity

Indeed, lakes and ponds have an important place in the history of making. Throughout history, lakes have been a great resource for travel, trade, water supply, sporting activities.

For some people, lakes are seen as permanent homes. For instance, in the Andes Mountains, indigenous people called the Uros have existed on Lake Titicaca for decades. The lake provides almost everything needed by the Uros. From the lake, they capture fish and hunt water birds. In cycles of drought, artificial lakes are used to conserve water.

Hydroelectric energy is often generated by reservoirs created by dams built on lakes. The water from the lake is channeled to drive turbines generating power.

On the other hand, finding a pond next to your castle was a symbol of wealth in Medieval Europe. In India, many Hindu temples also maintain the ancient tradition of having a pond nearby, considered sacred areas, and used literally and religiously by visitors and locals alike to bathe and cleanse themselves.

This is evidence that ponds and lakes have been in existence and have assisted mankind and other lands, water, and air animals to survive. It’s therefore paramount to conserve these features.