EASTHAM (CBS) – Summer is in full swing, and there is no surprise people are looking for great places to cool off. While the ocean is a great choice, some folks have been reluctant to swim off the coast of Cape Cod in fear of sharks. That fear fueled by more sightings and beach closures recently.
However, there is another choice on Cape Cod and that is one of the hundreds of known kettle ponds. Scientists are now concerned, that the increased popularity of visiting these ponds thanks to the increased shark activity, could be devastating to their delicate ecosystems.
“I have friends from home texting me about all the shark sightings on our beach, so I just wanted to have a relaxing nice swim, so this is where we found it,” a visitor at the Great Pond Beach in Eastham told WBZ-TV.
Ancient glaciers created these kettle shaped ponds all across the Cape… filled with fresh water, they’re perfect for recreational use like boating and kayaking and now more and more people are realizing they are a safer place to swim.
Dr. Stephen Smith is a plant ecologist for the Cape Cod National Seashore and has been studying the fragile ecosystems of these ponds. Already, he’s observed the environmental changes from pH levels to warming temperatures which has impacted the chemistry within these ponds. However, the impacts from humans and beachgoers can also affect the ecosystem.
“We’re seeing a loss of habitat from the creation of these beaches. Ten to fifteen years ago we started noticing some big impacts around some of our National Seashore ponds where people had basically prevented their vegetation from growing… and that’s probably one of the bigger impacts we’re keeping a close eye on,” Smith explains.
Smith is also concerned that the number of visitors as these kettle ponds may increase as shark sightings continue to rise.
“These ponds can only accommodate a certain amount of traffic,” Smith states. “We feel like there is going to be more use in the future as people are understandably trepidatious about taking a dip in the ocean with all those sharks out there.”
It will be a delicate balance of providing a nice place to visit and keeping the ponds in good health Stephen explains. “I think as long as we manage them properly and inform visitors about their impacts on the ponds I think we can hopefully… we can develop a strategy by which we’ll preserve them for as long as we can possibly do that.”