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Pfister's Pond Preservation Project

How Will it Affect Visitors?


Pfister's Pond is a man-made body of water that is estimated to be over 100 years old. According to former Tenafly Borough Historian Virginia Mosley, maps from 1899 show a wooded swamp where the pond is now situated. A title search revealed no residents by the name of "Pfister" in Tenafly until at least 1910.

The pond serves as a headwater source for the Hackensack River Watershed, an important source of biodiversity, and a pivotal educational resource for Tenafly Nature Center.

Current Condition of Pfister's Pond

As part of its stewardship, TNC has monitored Pfister's Pond's condition during the last 60 years. Over the decades, the once 3.5-acre pond has greatly reduced in size, resulting in an ecosystem that soon may not technically qualify as a pond.

All environments naturally undergo succession. Succession is a natural process in which an open water body fills in with sediment and decaying plant matter. As this process takes place the once open water area will eventually become a swamp/marshland. This will result in a breeding ground for biting insects such as mosquitos. As the process continues it will form into a meadow and as the process finishes, the water disappears, and the space will end up as a continuation of the surrounding forest. This process typically takes several hundred years.

In the case of Pfister's Pond, this process has been accelerated. An unnatural over-abundance of nutrients has resulted in an unnatural explosion of plant life, causing eutrophication. This phenomena leads to common water quality issues like low dissolved oxygen, odors, and algae blooms. This elevated level of plant growth greatly expedited the succession of the pond to the forest which has resulted in the process happening much faster than it would under normal conditions.

Moving Forward

To slow down the rate of succession and to preserve the biodiversity present in the pond and surrounding land the Tenafly Nature Center, in conjunction with the Mayor and Council of Tenafly, is implementing a process known as hydro-raking.

Hydro-raking is a procedure that employs a floating barge with a mechanical arm to “rake” the decaying vegetative material and remove it from the water. Hydro-raking, as opposed to dredging, is a safer option for the local wildlife and will result in a healthier pond habitat with a greater depth of open water. By removing the plant debris and excess muck we will help to reduce the overall nutrient load and combat the attendant issues of eutrophication, making it an ideal choice for pond maintenance. Such intervention will help to prolong the lifespan of the pond, or prevent the future need for dredging. This will allow Tenafly Nature Center visitors the ability to enjoy Pfister’s Pond for many years to come.

After the material has been removed a yearly maintenance will commence that will assist the natural decomposition process and ensure the rate of succession is no longer expedited in the pond. This will help keep the pond from filling back up with vegetation as quickly.

At the end of the project, about 5,000 - 7,000 cubic feet of material will be removed.

Why restore the pond if succession is natural?

Tenafly Nature Center is home to over 80 acres of forest and wetland habitat, within its almost 400 acres of mixed hardwood forest.

Allowing 2.5 acres of pond to disappear would decrease biodiversity not just in Tenafly but also the surrounding areas. Since freshwater ponds offer opportunities for our biodiversity to enjoy a complete and balanced ecosystem that forested wetlands cannot.

The importance of maintaining global freshwater biodiversity and ensuring its sustainable use cannot be over-emphasised. Wetland ecosystems, including the associated waterbodies, come in all shapes and sizes and all have a role to play. The larger ones, perhaps inevitably, have enjoyed the most attention – it is easy to overlook the many small waterbodies scattered across the landscape. Fortunately, over the last decade, our knowledge and attitude towards small wetlands like ponds has begun to change. We know now that they are crucial for biodiversity and can also provide a whole range of ecosystem services. These ‘local waterbodies’ can also help us encourage the link between people and wildlife. To protect wetlands and the many species they support, it is not enough to only protect large expanses of marshlands, peat bogs, lakes and river valleys, coastal areas – we need to protect the small ponds and pools too.

- Anada Tiega, Secretary General - Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Wildlife Use

Despite its anthropogenic origin, Pfister's Pond has become an integral part of the TNC preserve and attracts a large variety of wildlife throughout all four seasons.

Over the last nine decades the pond has become an essential part of the Hudson River migratory corridor. Over 12,300 birds pass through the corridor each fall (as tallied by the Hawk watch at State Line Lookout).

Green Herons, Wood Ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese, and Mallards are the most abundant and nest in and around the pond. With Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebe being annual visitors. American Coot, Snow Goose, Double-crested Cormorant and several other species occur irregularly. Belted Kingfisher, Osprey, and Bald Eagle use the pond regularly, and testify to the ideal habitat and the abundance of fish and frogs.

During seasonal migrations, Pfister's Pond provides critically important habitat for many of these birds due to its proximity to the Hudson. Many migrating birds prefer the quiet hunting around Pfister’s Pond compared to the Hudson River.

Throughout the year deer, foxes, coyotes and muskrats can be seen stopping by for a drink, and a family of mink have recently moved in to feast on the fish present in the pond.

Painted Turtles, Box Turtles and Snapping Turtles are often seen in or around the pond basking or looking for food.

Bullfrogs and Green Frogs are commonly seen throughout the summer. Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Spotted Salamanders may be found in spring.

Pumpkinseed Sunfish nest right along the Main Trail, and Common Shiners are seen in deeper water.

The pond supports an amazing variety of aquatic insects, rotifers, protozoans, planarians, hydra, and other minute but ecologically important organisms.

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