Starting a Pool
New life springs forth as winter recedes
While taking a woodland walk in late March the trees may be bare and snow still clinging to the ground, yet life is renewing itself in small bodies of water all around you. Vernal pools appear in late winter until they dry up in late spring. “It’s wonderful to think that even though it may not look or feel like spring, life is beginning to regenerate itself in these vernal spring pools,” says White Memorial Conservation Center research director James Fischer.
Vernal pools range in size from several yards to several hundred square feet and are formed by snow melt, rains, or occasionally by river or stream flooding. They often develop in areas heavy in bedrock or hardpan clays, which reduce porosity. “They are ephemeral, meaning they dry up, but not before providing valuable breeding grounds for insects and amphibians; from salamanders and turtles to dragonflies and even a small crustacean called “fairy shrimp,” says Fischer. “Being fish free means they are basically predator free. After the pools dry up, the juvenile inhabitants move to bordering areas.”
A White Memorial survey showed there are around 120 vernal pools on the property. Some of the best places to find vernal pools are near Beaver Pond, in the Slab Meadow Road area, and near the Bantam River.
Vernal pools also serve humans as they allow for the slow filtration of water through the soil profile, resulting in clean and cold water that then feeds into groundwater, streams, creeks, and rivers.
“Sometimes, a vernal pool will break up into several smaller pools and seem like a string of pearls,” says Fischer, who occasionally leads tours of the pools. So take a moment to dip a hand into a vernal pool and be amazed at the vibrancy of new life contained within.