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From the February 2013 Conservationist for Kids

A panorama of a hillside with forest, fields and industry, showing the flow of water

The Water Cycle

By Gina Jack

How you care for the land in one place can affect places far away and the animals and plants that live there. As water flows across the land, it picks up all kinds of things, from litter to chemicals, and carries them along tributaries to larger water bodies. The health of animals and plants throughout the watershed could be affected.

No matter where you live, you can be an environmental steward by caring for the land and water. This includes learning the best ways to live with and, if needed, manage the organisms some call pests. Consider the effects your actions may have on the environment as you and your family decide which pests you can tolerate, which you can tolerate in smaller numbers, and which you can't tolerate at all.

Invasive animals and plants-species that arrived from far away-have disrupted the natural food webs in the Great Lakes. Aquatic pests are difficult to control. It's best to prevent their arrival in the first place.

A woman sprays a pink-flowered rhododendron to get rid of pests
Be smart when your family uses
pesticides. Leave this job for adults.

Bats around the barn? They help us by eating insects at night.

Most pesticides may not be used in schoolyards.

Got weeds? Pulling them out by hand can be the best way to get rid of them.

Ladybugs eat aphids. They are a natural way of controlling garden pests. Other insects help in the garden, too. Bees pollinate many of the vegetables and fruits we grow.

Weeds to some are beautiful flowers to others. How do you feel about dandelions?

A hand holding a water chestnut plant
European water chestnut

European water chestnut crowds out native plants and food sources for native animals. Its hard, pointy, nutlike seeds and mats of floating leaves make boating and swimming difficult in areas where it is growing. People often pull this pest from the water, like weeding a garden.

A woman walks down a boardwalk flanked by tall phragmites plants
Phragmites australis

Phragmites australis, non-native common reed, is easily confused with native common reed. It crowds out native reeds, reducing habitat and food sources for native animals. Professionals use pesticides to kill it, but removing this pest is tricky to do without harming native species growing nearby.

A round goby fish near some quagga mussels
Round goby and quagga mussels

Quagga mussels and round goby (a small fish) were accidentally transported to the Great Lakes from western Russia. The mussels consume vast amounts of plankton, leaving little for native aquatic life to eat. Gobies are aggressive and compete with native fish for food and for space.

Sea lamprey are parasitic fish that entered the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean. They feed upon large fish including top predators, such as lake trout.

The underside and toothy mouth of a sea lamprey
The mouth parts of a sea lamprey