Howard County's Christmas trees soon will sleep with the fishes.
Along with the Quick Release Bass Masters, a regional fishing group, the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks will install about two dozen Christmas trees in Warfield Pond this spring.
"It gets rid of the trees and provides additional habitat for the fish," said Chris Holden, a lake studies expert at Princeton University. He said the recycling process is used at a number of lakes across the country.
Fish are among nature's most adaptable creatures. In a Mexican hot spring, a killifish can tolerate temperatures as high as 113 degrees, whereas the Antarctic icefish lives at about 29 degrees in water of high salinity. The red-eared sunfish in Warfield Pond have to adapt to a different challenge: the predator.
Last summer 2,250 red-eared
sunfish and bluegill fish were added to the rebuilt 4.5-acre pond. In June 450 largemouth bass, the predators, will be put in the pond. The tree habitat will allow the red-eared sunfish a safe place to breed.
"The small fish can hide, and the trees will give them a good habitat to grow and reproduce in, but the bass will eventually be able to get in and get them," said Rick Perron, a parks specialist.
Mr. Holden said the process is effective and ecologically sound.
"Ordinarily, you don't want to put organic matter into a lake because it can create an oxygen demand," he said.
During decomposition, organic matter siphons from water the oxygen fish need to survive. So it would be unwise to fill the pond with leaves or lawn clippings, because they decompose quickly, he said.
"The trees, since they decompose slowly, don't have that problem," Mr. Holden said.
He estimated that the Christmas tree habitat to be created in Warfield Pond will not decompose fully for five to 10 years.
The county had planned to install the trees as soon as the lake froze over, but this winter's warm weather has stalled the effort.
"We were hoping to get some ice cover over the pond so we could lay them in, and in spring they'd all just drop into place," said Mark Raab, land management and open space supervisor with the Department of Recreation and Parks.
"Now we don't know when we'll be able to get out there," he said.
Mr. Perron said he will select about 30 of the largest, fullest trees to use for the habitat. The Quick Release Bass Masters will help install concrete anchors on the trees to hold them in place. The county estimates a total cost of $100 for cables and fasteners, has collected about 50 trees and is accepting more for future projects.
Warfield Pond will be the first place in Howard County to have Christmas trees installed. A similar project is also planned for Centennial Lake in the spring.