A report published today shows that 80% of ponds in the British countryside are in a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ condition. In England and Wales, the study also shows that the condition of ponds has got worse since 1996.
The Countryside Survey 2007 shows that small waterbodies are in poorest condition in intensive agricultural areas and where they have high nutrient levels, usually where they are connected to streams or were fed by water that ran off from farmland, towns, villages and roads. Many ponds were both shaded and polluted which further reduced their wildlife value.
Ponds support more threatened freshwater plant and animal species than either rivers or lakes and, in a typical patch of English countryside, a wider variety of common species too. Loss of breeding ponds is a main factor behind recent declines for a number of amphibian species.
“It is shocking that ponds are in such a terrible state. This should be a wake up call for everyone concerned with protecting freshwater wildlife and involved in water management. Practically unnoticed, wildlife-rich, clean and unpolluted ponds have become a rarity in the countryside.” said Dr Jeremy Biggs of Pond Conservation.
David Orchard, ponds project officer with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, joined Pond Conservation in commenting on the results:
“Ponds provide habitats for some of the UK’s most threatened species but the importance of water quality and the factors affecting this are often overlooked. The Countryside Survey results show the relationship between wildlife value and the water quality of ponds, emphasising the importance of managing our land sensitively to protect freshwater habitats for the future.”
“Ponds are essential for the survival of amphibians such as our frogs, toads and newts as well as other, once familiar, species such as damselflies and dragonflies.” he said.
Significantly, the study shows that large numbers of new ponds are created annually in Britain (more than 7,000 ponds per year), and that many of these new ponds rapidly became rich wildlife habitats.
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is working closely with Pond Conservation on the Million Ponds Project, an initiative to support the creation of an extra 5,000 good water quality ponds by 2012.
“If most new ponds are located in areas where they are protected from pollutants, and are not fed by streams or ditches, they rapidly become wildlife oases that help to protect Britain’s freshwater biodiversity in the long term.” say Pond Conservation.
Today’s report also highlights the ecological value of ‘protective networks’ of ponds, where freshwater habitats are linked together. These can be valuable to amphibian populations, offering corridors for dispersal and helping reduce the fragility of local populations.
For more information on Pond Conservation’s Million Ponds Project: click here