These are questions that BlueWing has encountered. If you find your question is not listed, or you have different or additional questions, we'd LOVE to hear from you.
Q. Can I launch my Floating Island myself or do I need to get a professional to do it?
A. Floating Islands are straightforward to launch, once the instructions are fully understood, but there are many advantages to getting trained help. All standard Floating Island models come with full instructions, and without any prior training, it is possible to successfully launch them.
However, the more site variables there are (slope, limited access to water), the more you are likely to benefit from trained assistance.
Once you get into the larger islands (130 sq ft and above) they require more manpower to assemble.
Custom-built Floating Islands will always require professional installation to validate our warranty.
The advantage of getting a trained professional is the same as in any other field: peace of mind is assured and any problems are likely to be anticipated and solved more easily. Our certified installers provide professional launching services, and they can advise with sizing, planting and placement of your Floating Islands.
Living Walkways and docks are always installed by professionals.
Q. What will grow on a Floating Island?
A: If the water in your pond is well aerated, almost any plant suitable for your planting zone will grow on a Floating Island. If your water is not well aerated, or if you are not sure, we recommend riparian (wetland) plants that are naturally adapted to low oxygen conditions. Many nurseries have wetland plants available.
Q. How long will it take for my island to mature into a beautiful floating island?
A: Answer: No more than one season. In fact, many experienced gardeners report that their islands develop faster than conventional gardens. Our Floating Islands also typically green up sooner in the spring and stay green longer in the fall due to the thermal effect of water.
Q. Will ducks and geese or swans graze on my island's plants? Will fish graze on plant roots that grow through the island?
A: A carefully designed planting strategy can either encourage or discourage grazing by waterfowl, and root grazing by certain fish species. With thoughtful plant selection Floating Islands can assist you in stewardship of your waterway. You can use your island to lure waterfowl away from other sites, or to feed fish, or to provide more secure nest sites for swans, or you can select plants that are not conducive to waterfowl or fish. We can design and implement temporary goose exclusion measures until the island vegetation becomes established. Feel free to contact us to discuss whether this is appropriate for your project.
Q. Can I move a Floating Island from one pond to another? Are there other ways to adjust Floating Islands to achieve the waterscape I'm after?
A: Small Floating Islands, up to about 25 square feet, are easily moved. Pull them onto a tarp on a fairly level shoreline, let them drain for an hour or so, then carry them into the new location. If you are going to transport your wet island be sure to carefully cover the entire island to prevent plant desiccation. Joiner cables can be used to attach an anchor to your island, or to attach additional Islands to each other to achieve a new waterscape effect.
Q. Is it important or useful to anchor my Floating Island in one spot? If so, how are they anchored?
A: An advantage of leaving your Floating Island unanchored is that you will enjoy a changing waterscape. However this is not always practical. All islands come with anchor attachment points through which an anchor "rope" can be inserted. We recommend you use chain for large islands, sturdy cord for smaller islands. A heavy object can then be tied to the other end and lowered to bottom. Make sure you allow enough slack for fluctuations in the water level. Alternatively, you can tether your island to shore, which has some advantages in making it accessible.
To maintain your island you can wade out or row out to it, or pull it in to shore.
Q. What do I do if a tree or some other large plant "volunteers" on my Floating Island?
A: We recommend that you remove such plants from your island. Pruning them back aggressively should also work. On the other hand, a large Floating Island can support about two pounds of additional negative buoyancy per square foot. So in other words, a 500 square foot Floating Island can support up to 1000 pounds of additional weight, which might include people, picnic tables, or some other waterscape option. Sometimes, we use rocks on Floating Islands as habitat features. Floating Islands can be made in any size, and can be customized to achieve higher levels of buoyancy if desired.
Q. How does a Floating Island improve water quality?
A: Many bodies of water associated with agriculture or septic systems or storm water management or lawn and garden fertilizers carry an unnaturally high nutrient load. This can result in a wide range of serious water quality problems. Floating Islands represent a holistic way to “mine” these problem causing nutrients out of your waterway and convert them into a beautiful and wildlife enhancing floating island habitat.
Q. Will a Floating Island eliminate algae from my pond?
A: Not completely - a small amount of algae is part of the natural system. However, your Floating Island will help prevent algae taking over in your waterway.
Q. My city installed a Floating Island in a retention pond near my home. It has done a great job of removing filamentous algae but there's still duckweed and watermeal present. Will it remove these or do I need to use a herbicide? What impact would this have on the island and its vegetation?
A. The plants and the microbes that occur on a floating island, especially the microbes, will seriously compete for nutrients with all of the other biota in your pond, including watermeal and duckweed. We do not know what impact a toxic chemical will have on either the island plants, or the microbes that cause our floating islands to work. In fact, the buoyancy of floating islands, which is in part provided by the biogas produced by microbes, can be negatively impacted by some chemicals.
We believe the best option is to find a way to limit the nutrients getting into the water. Another option is to experiment with the chemical in question and closely watch the performance, particularly the buoyancy, of your floating island. Another option is more floating islands....
Yet another option is to expand aeration of the water. Research suggests that well aerated water will almost triple the nutrient uptake capability of our floating islands. Or you may simply wait...over time the pond will develop a new balance. Perhaps over the next couple of seasons the islands can reduce the nutrient loading enough to favorably impact the volume of watermeal and duckweed.
Q. Will a Floating Island make my pond's water clear?
A: Yes, judging from several studies which have shown remarkable reductions in turbidity over a short period of time. Floating Islands attract and bond suspended solids and colloidals into the island matrix where they will ultimately become soil and plants and beneficial microbes and gas. Some of these solids will also be sequestered into other life forms like damsel fly nymphs and fish.
However, if your pond has a clay bottom, and is inhabited by species like crawfish, which constantly stir it up, the water is likely to stay cloudy.
Q. Will a Floating Island plug up?
We don't believe so. Even if the island is accumulating solids and biofilm inside the matrix, it is constantly being "eaten" by fish and other small (or large) life forms. The heavier stuff will tend to slough off into the sediment below. This is unlike a constructed wetland, which will tend to plug up in due course.
Q. Will a Floating Island ultimately grow and cover my entire pond?
A: Evidence from the wild, peat based floating islands we bio-mimic indicates that while this is a possibility, it will take a long time. In some applications, like wetland restoration associated with Mississippi river delta, we hope to achieve high growth rates on very large floating islands. For most ponds however the quickest way to expand your floating island is to purchase another.
Q. Must I inoculate my Floating Island with beneficial microbes for it to work at improving water quality?
A: No, your Floating Island will attract native beneficial microbes that are already present within your waterway. These microbes will gravitate to the concentrated wetland surface area provided by the Floating Island and will reproduce quickly, forming biofilms. Water passing through these biofilms is exposed to microbial activity (the same microbial processes that wastewater treatment plants rely on). Your Floating Island will also provide water quality benefits as it filters suspended solids and colloidals from the water.
Microbes need a carbon source to get going. Many wetland plants secrete sugars into the water from their roots which is one reason why they are associated with wetlands water treatment.
Q. Are Floating Islands safe?
A: Small Floating islands do not represent a safety issue that we know of. Larger ones could represent a boating hazard and we recommend that they be well marked so as to be visible under all conditions.
Unless your Floating island has been specially designed to support human activity, we recommend that you do not walk on them, or swim adjacent or underneath them. Roots that grow through the floating island could represent a swimming or diving hazard. Any activity around a wetland of any sort involves the potential for getting wet, so life-jackets and waterproof boots should be worn IF you feel the need to walk on a Floating Island.
Q. Do Floating Islands leach harmful substances such as Bisphenol-A into the water?
No. Floating Islands are made from PET, which does not use BPA in its manufacture, and is not known to leach any other substances into water. It is the plastic used in most drink bottles and is safe around water.
In fact, there is scientific evidence that Floating Islands are net absorbers of BPA - in other words, they remove it from water. Please contact us or see FII Research section.
Q. Do Floating Islands attract mosquitoes?
A: No, but they do attract fish and nymphs and other insects that consume mosquito larvae. Also, carnivorous plants that eat mosquitoes occur on wild floating islands and would no doubt be readily grown on Floating Islands.
Q. How long will a BioHaven last?
A: BioHavens are made from very tough materials which do not readily break down. Our oldest BioHavens have gone through eight Montana winters and are doing just fine. There is no reason we know of why they should not last indefinitely.
For warranty information please refer directly to the licensed manufacturer.
The BioHaven in effect "seeds" a natural system. As the growing cycle causes plants to mature, die off and leave their detritus; and as biofilm grows on and within the islands, giving rise to all kinds of life; this process of life releases gas as a by-product, thus ensuring the buoyancy of the BioHaven in the long term.
We recommend that when launching a BioHaven, care is taken to completely cover the plastic matrix with plants, BioMix or sod to minimize UV exposure.
It is well known that plastics represent a disposal challenge in waste collection settings since, as long as they are protected from UV exposure, they last indefinitely. Our design for BioHavens takes advantage of this feature. When a BioHaven is launched, it is covered with a UV protection substrate. This may be BioMix, a peat-based bedding mix, coir or jute, or gravel. Other materials like natural or synthetic latex may also be used.
Q. Can BioHavens be used as floating walkways to cross over my pond?
A: Yes, but such a BioHaven would need to be customized to support the specified loads. BioHavens can also be used as green docks or piers when built specifically for such purposes.
Q. Can BioHavens help fight bank erosion? Will they prevent wave erosion?
A: A strategically positioned BioHaven can function as a breakwater. BioHavens will dampen wave action. Extensive testing is being carried out with a noted hydraulics lab to quantify the wave dampening effects of a BioHaven.
Q. How long does it take to assemble and launch a large BioHaven, say a 250 square foot unit?
A: Two workers can assemble, launch and plant a 250 in less than three hours. No real assembly is required for the 90 square foot and smaller islands.
Q. Can BioHavens help with removal of heavy metals or hazardous waste from a waterway?
A: Yes. A major study in New Zealand shows that BioHavens can remove 70-85% of total copper in 14 days and 30-45% of zinc in 14 days. Other studies measuring their efficacy in this application are underway in Bozeman, Montana and Toronto, Canada. In addition, we have measured significant uptake of suspended solids, which is a form heavy metals occasionally take, from waterways.
We here at BlueWing and Floating Island International believe that BioHavens represent another water and ecosystem stewardship tool and we are truly excited about the part BioHavens can play in making our planet a better place for all forms of life!
Q. Can BioHavens remove pharmaceuticals from the water?
We are encouraged by early results from a student research project which show that BioHavens reduce levels of estrogen in water. Increased levels of this chemical are entering our waterways through human use of birth-control pills resulting in fish populations becoming sterile. Other hazardous pharmaceuticals get into our water - eg, chemotherapy drugs - and we greatly hope BioHavens can mediate against these too. Plenty of research opportunities here....
Q. Do I have to use the proprietary BioMix?
A: No, you don't have to but we recommend it. BioMix has been specially designed to work with BioHavens. It keeps your island buoyant, while delivering appropriate moisture and oxygen to the plant roots. Furthermore it will not leak out of the island matrix. Soil is not recommended as it may cause your island to sink (and it may contain fertilizer), but if BioMix is not available, use coir peat or other sand-free potting mix.
Avoid clay, which melts, and sand, which is heavy and can fall through the gaps in the matrix.
Q. How do I tend to the plants or weed my island?
A: In the event you want to weed your island or tend your plants (for instance, to thin or prune them), you can either row or wade out to the island and do it in place, or you can move the island onto shore. For the latter, it could make sense to tether the island to a point on the shore but alternatively you can use a pole (or similar) to gently pull a small island in.
We can build a walkway into larger islands to allow access for maintenance, upon request.
Q. How do I go about up-sizing my island?
A: You can either buy a bigger island, or join many smaller islands together with our specially designed cables and pins. BioHavens are available in sizes of up to 250 sq ft (and beyond for custom-built orders). The number of islands you can join together is limited only by the space you have available. Contact your distributor for more information on these options.
Q. Can I fertilize my island?
A: Yes, but very, very carefully. We recommend using worm castings, a natural and water-friendly fertilizer. But we would strongly advise avoiding chemical-based fertilizers as it is frequently the nutrients found in fertilizer that cause water quality problems in the first place. One of the reasons we recommend native species is because they normally do not require much pampering.
For perspective, wetlands are actually biofilters that incorporate large volumes of plant and microbial life, which typically compete aggressively, to sequester whatever nutrients filter through. Your BioHaven is designed to function the same way, and keeping its plant and microbial community hungry and searching for nutrients will result in a healthier waterway.
Q. Can BioHavens be used to grow herbs or veggies or maybe fruit?
A: Yes. In fact, doing so can be a lot of fun. You also have the option of growing some really exotic succulents like watercress or wild ginger. At the Shepherd research facility, they have (or had) tomato, raspberry, asparagus, watercress, wild ginger, American Speedwell, and Monkey flower growing on BioHavens of various sizes. Fertilize with worm-castings if you are not sure about the nutrient levels in your pond. AERATION is essential when growing non-wetland species.
If you know your water has high levels of toxins, it would probably be best to avoid eating produce grown on it. However, we know that different plants have different strategies for up-take and storage of toxins in their stems, leaves and roots, so we'd say investigate further, and even have the fruit tested if you have reason to be concerned.
***A question for you now! If you grow veggies on a floating island without herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers, is the fruit organic? What if you know the water contains run-off and nutrients from fertilizer? Does this affect your answer? And what if you consider that this same water is being used to water the garden or other crops? ***
Q. What time of year is best for launching a BioHaven?
A: BioHavens can be launched any time of year. In fact, placing them in position on top of an ice covered waterway is a method we have tested with success. Another effective approach is fall seeding of islands which positions them for nice green up the following spring. But as you might expect, launching an island in the spring or summer means that your island can green up and add to your waterscape quickly. BioHavens have also been launched with a sod covering, so they were immediately green, in Canada literally just a few days before ice up. All of these methods work. Incidentally, root growth on bluegrass sod covered islands, in a reasonably well aerated waterway, averaged slightly over one half inch per day during summer months. However, once roots grew through the island thickness and were accessible by fish the bluegrass sod roots were aggressively grazed. The bluegrass on the island flourished despite this grazing.
Q. I would like to check the buoyancy capacity design of your floating island. Can you tell me what the standard buoyancy capacity is, and what's the maximum buoyancy capacity you can design?
A. The buoyancy standard for BioHavens is 5 pounds per square foot, which equates to 55 pounds per square meter. This is the standard for our 8" thick islands. We also make modules that are 5 feet by 8 feet by 10" inches thick, which have a 12 pound per square foot buoyancy standard. Adding additional buoyancy is easy, but does reduce the biomediation quotient. In other words, there will be less surface area for microbial colonization as we add more buoyancy so more buoyancy equates to less pollution reduction.
If we foamed the entire matrix with foam, then a cubic foot of island would displace 64 pounds of water. The weight of the foam is a designable number, but if the foam weighed 4 pounds and the island was 12 inches thick, then the island would offer 60 pounds of buoyancy per square foot of top surface. The islands can be made to any thickness, so accordingly there is no maximum....we can provide whatever buoyancy you require.
Q. What's the experience with your floating island in salt water environments? Do you have salt water tolerant plants that will help clean up salt water lagoons?
A. Yes, there are numerous plants that can flourish in brackish or salt water settings. There are several such launches around the US, but we anticipate many others in the future. Keep in mind that microbial action is actually responsible for most of the nutrient uptake associated with water cleanup, and they definitely will thrive in such a setting (in fact the optimal microbes are the native species that already occur in your setting, and which will quickly colonize your island). For macrophytes we suggest that you plant with native species that are currently occurring along the water’s edge.
Q. Have you carried out any research projects in brackish or marine settings?
We launched 700-plus sq ft of BioHavens in Alaska in September 2008, into sea water, and are monitoring the vegetation growth; and we are working with groups of engineers to measure nutrient uptake in brackish water, such as Cape Cod embayments and in Chesapeake Bay.