1. What is a BioHaven® Floating Island?
Answer: BioHaven floating islands are a new variant on constructed wetlands, or treatment wetlands. BioHaven Floating Islands "bio-mimic" mother nature's own natural floating wetlands. When a BioHaven is launched, a whole diverse eco-system is created which soon attracts life in all its forms, from microbes to nymphs, to butterflies, to fish, birds.... all the way up the food chain. They can be custom created to virtually any size and shape, the largest island (44,000 square feet) to-date was launched in early 2010 by Floating Island West.
2. What will grow on a BioHaven Floating Island?
Answer: If the water in your pond is well aerated, almost any plant suitable for your planting zone will grow on a BioHaven. If your water is not well aerated, or if you are not sure, we recommend riparian plants that are naturally adapted to low oxygen conditions. Many nurseries have wetland plants available. A list of sources for wetland plant seeds and wild flower seeds, which we also recommend, is available on request.
3. How long will it take for my BioHaven to mature into a beautiful floating island?
Answer: No more than one season. In fact, many experienced gardeners report that their islands develop faster than conventional gardens. Our BioHavens also typically green up sooner in the spring and stay green longer in the fall due to the thermal effect of water.
4. Will ducks and geese or swans graze on my island’s plants? Will fish graze on plant roots that grow through the island?
Answer: A carefully designed planting strategy can either encourage or discourage grazing by waterfowl and root grazing by certain fish species. With thoughtful plant selection BioHavens can assist you in stewardship of your waterway. You can use your island to lure waterfowl away from other sites, or to feed fish, as well as provide more secure nest sites for loons, ducks and swans. You can also select plants that are not conducive to waterfowl or fish.
5. Can I purchase a developed BioHaven Island so I don’t have to wait for it to mature?
Answer: Some nurseries will have developed BioHaven Islands on hand and for sale. Please contact us for more information or to see how we can help.
6. Can I move a BioHaven Island from one pond to another? Are there other ways to adjust islands to achieve the waterscape I’m after?
Answer: Small BioHaven 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, and 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 also be used to attach an anchor to your island, or to attach additional BioHavens to each other to achieve a new waterscape effect.
7. Is it important or useful to anchor my BioHaven in one spot? If so, how are they anchored?
Answer: A disadvantage of leaving your BioHaven unanchored is that if your pond’s water level changes your island may hang up against a shoreline & 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. Be sure to allow enough slack for fluctuations in the water level. Alternatively you can tether your island to the shore, which has some advantages in making it accessible. We recommend positioning your island in an optimal spot by tying an anchor cord or rope to the single clip that comes with your BioHaven Island.
8. What do I do if a tree or some other large plant “volunteers” on my small BioHaven Island?
Answer: We recommend that you remove such plants from your island. Pruning them back aggressively should also work. On the other hand, a large BioHaven can support about two pounds of additional negative buoyancy per square foot. So in other words, a 500 square foot BioHaven can support up to 1000 pounds of weight, which might include people, picnic tables, or some other waterscape option. We often use rocks on BioHavens as habitat features. BioHavens can be made in any size, and can be customized to achieve higher levels of buoyancy if desired.
9. How does a BioHaven FTW improve water quality?
Answer: 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. BioHavens 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.
10. Do BioHaven Islands leach harmful substances such as Bisphenol-A into the water?
No. BioHaven Islands are made from PET or PP, which do 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 BioHavens are net absorbers of BPA - in other words, they remove it from water. Please see our Research section.
11. Will a BioHaven FTW eliminate algae from my pond?
Answer: No. However, your BioHaven FTW of sufficient size and development will help prevent algae from developing into a monoculture in your waterway.
12. Will a BioHaven FTW make my pond’s water clear?
Answer: BioHaven FTW's attract and bond suspended solids and colloidal into the island matrix where they will ultimately become soil and plants, beneficial microbes and bio-gas. Some of these solids will also be sequestered into other life forms like damsel fly nymphs and fish. If you prefer to keep your BioHaven Island functioning optimally as a biofilter, the island can be harvested or removed from your pond and the matrix rinsed off. This will keep the BioHaven’s orifices open and able to collect more of the suspended solids and other fines that reduce your water clarity. This can be done as often as once every two months. In most applications the harvesting or removal of islands is not necessary to achieve long term benefit from BioHaven FTW's.
13. What about Buoyancy?
The buoyancy standard for BioHavens is 5 lbs per square foot, which equates to 55 lbs per square meter. This is the standard for our 8" thick islands. We also make modules that are five feet by 8 feet by 10"s thick, which have a 12 lb 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 lbs of water. The weight of the foam is a designable number, but if the foam weighed four pounds and the island was 12 inches thick, then the island would offer 60 lbs of buoyancy per square foot of top surface. The islands can be made of any thickness, so accordingly there is no maximum....we can provide whatever buoyancy you require.
14. My city installed a BioHaven 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 an herbicide such as Sonar? What impact would this have on the island and its vegetation?
Answer: The plants and especially the microbes that occur on a floating island, 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.
Perhaps 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...and the shade that they provide, as well as the additional competition for nutrients will help with overall water quality.
Another variable is to expand aeration of the water. In research that we have been exposed to, well aerated water will almost triple the nutrient uptake capability of our floating islands. Another option is to 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.
15. Will a BioHaven ultimately grow and cover my entire pond?
Answer: Evidence from the wild, peat based floating islands we emulate 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.
16. Must I inoculate my BioHaven with beneficial microbes for it to work at improving water quality?
Answer: No, your BioHaven will attract beneficial microbes that are most likely already present within your waterway. Your BioHaven will also provide water quality benefits as it filters suspended solids and colloidals from the water. However, your island is likely to be even more effective at competing with algae if you do dose it with beneficial microbes, for which our distributors are sources. To inoculate a BioHaven simply drop one of our water soluble half pound bags adjacent to the island’s edge, ideally on the upstream or windward side of the island, so the microbes filter into the island.
17. Are BioHavens safe?
Answer: Small BioHavens 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 BioHaven 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 BioHavens could represent a serious swimming or diving issue.
18. Do BioHavens attract mosquitoes?
Answer: No, they do just the opposite - they attract fish, nymphs, and other insects that actually consume mosquito larvae. Also, carnivorous plants that eat mosquitoes occur on wild floating islands and would no doubt be readily grown on BioHavens.
19. How long will a BioHaven last?
The 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.
Our island matrix is made from 100% Recycled Plastic. Plastic, as we know represents a challenge in waste management settings (as it doesn’t biodegrade like many other items that end up there), if protected from UV exposure, it will 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.
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. This ensures the buoyancy of the BioHaven in the long term.
Off-gasing occurs within the island and contributes to buoyancy over time. These gases keep the natural peat islands afloat. It is recommend that when launching an island, the plastic matrix is completely covered with plants, BioMix or sod to minimize UV exposure.
20. Will a BioHaven 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.
21. Can BioHavens be used as floating walkways?
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.
22. Can BioHavens help fight bank erosion? Will they prevent wave erosion?
• A strategically positioned BioHaven can function as a breakwater.
• BioHavens will dampen wave action.
• Extensive testing is currently being carried out with a noted hydraulics lab to quantify the wave dampening effects of a BioHaven.
23. Will BioHavens flourish indoors?
Aquarium and rock garden scale BioHavens can survive indoors, and provide an interesting new option in such settings. Appropriate full spectrum lighting is required for optimal performance. Inquire for more info.
24. Can I launch a BioHaven myself or do I need a professional to do it?
• BioHavens are straightforward to launch, once the instructions are fully understood, there are also many advantages to getting trained help. All standard BioHaven 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 BioHavens 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. Most of our Distributors provide professional launching services, and they can advise with sizing, planting and placement of your BioHaven.
• Living Walkways and docks are always installed by professionals.
25. How long does it take to assemble and launch a 250 square foot island?
Two workers can assemble, launch and plant a 250 in less than three hours. No real assembly is required for the 25 square foot and smaller islands.
26. Can BioHavens help with removal of heavy metals or hazardous waste from a waterway?
Yes. A major study in New Zealand has shown 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.
27. Do I have to use the proprietary BioMix?
Answer: Yes, you must use BioMix for the warranty on your island to remain valid. BioMix has been specially designed to work with BioHavens. It keeps your island buoyant, while delivering appropriate moisture to the plant roots. Furthermore it will not leak out of the island matrix. NOTE: Soil is not recommended.
28. How do I tend to the plants or weed my island?
Answer: In the event you want to weed your island – or tend your plants (for instance, to thin or prune them) – you can both 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.
29. How do I up-size my island?
Answer: 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.
30. Can I fertilize my island?
Yes, but very, very carefully. In fact, it is usually best not to fertilize. After all, it is frequently nutrients, as in fertilizer, which cause water quality problems in the first place. One of the reasons native species are recommended is because they normally do not require much pampering.
If you must fertilize, use a product that is designed for the wet conditions associated with our hydroponic setting, our “wet” setting. Normal fertilizer can break down too quickly and burn island plants, where a specifically designed wetland fertilizer is designed to release slowly. For perspective, wetlands are actually bio-filters 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.
31. Can BioHavens remove pharmaceuticals from the water?
Early results from a student research project showed 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 – such as chemotherapy drugs - get into our water and we greatly hope BioHavens can mediate against these too. There are plenty of research opportunities here....
32. What comes in a BioHaven® Floating Island kit?
Depending upon the distributor, these include the island, and may include our bedding mix which we call BioMix, as well as instructions that also will show you how BioHavens can be planted and launched. A recommended plant or seed list (general information) may also be included. If you do not receive instructions, please visit our planting and launching page for detailed instructions.
33. Can BioHavens be used to grow herbs or veggies or maybe fruit?
Answer: 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, tomatoes, raspberries, asparagus, watercress, wild ginger American Speedwell & Monkey Flower have been grown on BioHavens of various sizes.
34. What time of year is best for launching a BioHaven?
Answer: 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 season. As you might expect, launcing 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, one example is in Canada where this was 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 the 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 the grazing.
35. I have noticed that my BioHaven will occasionally lean to one side or hte other, why is this and what can I do to solve the problem?
Answer: As with all floating entities, BioHavens will on occasion, lean to one side or the other. The potential causes of this are varied; for small islands, it may be as simple as having a frog jump on and off of the island (as reported by a proud owner of a 1 square foot island). For larger islands, a list may reflect the possibility that the plants or grasses on one side of hte island have soaked up the water at a quicker rate than those on the opposite side. IN the even tthat you have a leaning, the solution is quite simple. Below are a few ideas to help get it back in place...
- You can anchor the islands together with one of our custom pins (as was recommended for the small island and frog)
- Add a counterbalance such as a small piece of ornamental driftwood or a small decorative stone to the high side of the island
- In the case of an island with sod: Trimming some of hte sod off of the low lying side of hte island will help to reduce the uptake of water and thereby reduce the weight on that side.
36. Has any research been done on the BioHaven Islands in brackish or marine settings?
In September of 2008, 700-plus square feet of BioHavens were launched in Alaskan sea water. They are monitored for the vegetation growth. Groups of engineers are working to measure nutrient uptake in brackish water, such as Cape Cod embayments and in Chesapeake Bay. Following is a letter for your viewing...
Marine Trials: Port Althorp and Elfin Cove, Alaska
Bruce & Anne,
I made it over to Althorp...Bob said that he was very impressed with how the dock held up. You will see some additional damage. One more section parted at the connectors. Bob said he witnessed some significant waves hitting the modules broadside. He said they easily rode up over the waves. He estimated 2 foot waves so that is a 4 foot sea. At one point he estimated 5 feet of snow on the modules and they were still above the water. He was impressed with the insulating potential. He said the snow remained on the modules much longer than he expected. This may provide some potential for walkways on tundra. There would be the flotation in the melt season along with insulation to protect the permafrost. We still have snow between the buildings. The plants on the module are just beginning to emerge. I did see some green poking through. I don't know if you have a diagram of what you planted where but that would be helpful in the future." Gordy Wrobel
BioHaven Floating Islands are launched in Singapore:
FII's international presence has recently expanded. A group in Singapore launched an archipelago of BioHaven floating islands as an way of introducing the public and the authorities to the potential of BioHavens as floating treatment wetlands. After the launch, the islands were inspected by the Health Minister. Their widespread application is being considered as part of Singapore's "ABC" program for water (Active, Beautiful, Clean). We are involved in a significant floating island project as the country converts a brackish inlet to fresh water.
Please let us know if you have any additional questions. You are welcome to contact us via e-mail: email@example.com
We will be happy to assist you!