360 Degree Tour: Spittal Pond Nature Reserve

February 1, 2022

In the fourth of our five-part series for 2022 World Wetlands Day, we take a 360 degree tour of Spittal Pond, which is described as “Bermuda’s only example of a non-tidal permanent brackish lagoon” and “the most important wetland for wintering waterfowl and transient shorebirds.”

Declared a “Wetland of International Importance” in 1999, Spittal Pond is located in Smiths and is said to feature “some of the best representation of geological formations in Bermuda.”

The Bermuda Tourism Authority [BTA] website describes the area by saying, “Visit one of the island’s largest and most untouched open spaces to spot numerous resident and migrating birds, as well as plants like Bermuda Cedar, olivewoods and spice trees.

“Spittal Pond Nature Reserve encompasses 64 acres of wetlands along the South Shore, with winding walking trails throughout. Interesting sights include the Checkerboard, an unusual limestone formation with a distinct pattern of cracks where whalers used to haul out their catch, and Portuguese Rock, where an inscription [now replaced with a bronze casting] is thought to be the oldest evidence of humans on the island.”

The Ramsar information document [PDF] notes that “The greatest natural factor affecting the ecological character of Spittal Pond is the impact of strong hurricanes.

“The pond is located on the exposed south coastline of Bermuda, where the protective reef line is located only 100-200 m offshore, offering little protection from the impact of hurricane waves and tides. In addition, the pond is only separated from the ocean by a thin line of small hills, with three low-lying overwash areas between them where waves can break through directly into the pond during hurricanes.”

“It appears to take at least 6-12 months for the pond to return to its normal state following a major hurricane flooding event,” the document states. “During hurricanes a huge amount of vegetation and organic matter is either swept into the pond by wave and tidal surge action, or is blown into the pond by the extreme winds.

“This material can vary from tons of Sargassum seaweed, to foliage from the surrounding vegetation, to whole trees complete with root mass. This huge input of organic material causes nutrient enrichment and anaerobic conditions for 6 months or more following hurricane events.”

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Category: All, Environment, News