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Ponds

Pond - The Wildlife TrustsPond - The Wildlife Trusts

What are they?

Still waters covered with fine duckweed, the eyes of a common frog just visible on the surface… This is many people’s impression of a ‘pond’. But ponds can come in all shapes and sizes, and occur in a variety of habitats.

In the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, ponds are defined as small, permanent or seasonal water bodies that are up to two hectares in size (less than three football pitches). To be considered as a priority habitat, the pond must be of high conservation or ecological importance, be home to species that are particularly scarce, have exceptional groups of plants and animals, or have other attributes such as being rare, old or part of a special landscape. It’s thought that around 20% of the UK’s 400,000 ponds (not including those in gardens) might meet one or more of these criteria.

Where are they found?

Ponds are widespread throughout the UK. However, currently only about 500 ponds of high conservation value are listed on the National Ponds Database. In certain areas, high quality ponds form significant elements of the landscape such as the Cheshire Plan marl pits, the pingos of East Anglia, mid-Wales’ mawn pools, and the machair pools in the Western Isles of Scotland. 

Why are they important?

Ponds support an immense number of plants and animals – more than 100 UK BAP priority species are associated with them. They are particularly good for invertebrates including the large red damselfly, common darter and broad-bodied chaser dragonflies, the rare lesser water measurer and the protected lesser silver water beetle. Go pond dipping and your net may sweep up everything from caddisfly larvae to water boatman, dragonfly nymphs to water scorpions. 

The vegetation in ponds varies according to depth. Plants like spiked water-milfoil, water-starwort and yellow water-lily are typical of deeper water, while soft rush, creeping bent, greater pond sedge and yellow iris are more characteristic of marginal areas. 

Ponds provide important homes for amphibians including the protected great crested newt, common toad, smooth newt and palmate newt. They are also home to water voles which burrow into soft banks, grass snakes which hunt among the vegetation, and Daubenton’s bats which skim the water in search of insects. Waterbirds such as swans, moorhens and tufted ducks rely on ponds for feeding and nesting, while waders like lapwing, redshank and snipe probe the muddy margins for invertebrates. Ponds provide stepping stones between isolated patches of habitat, linking up the countryside and allowing species to move about freely.

Are they threatened?

Recent research shows that 80% of wildlife ponds in the UK are in a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ state and we have lost almost half a million ponds in the last century. The effects of this loss on wildlife are devastating, as freshwater ponds provide many species with suitable breeding and feeding habitat. Ponds have been, and continue to be, lost to urban development and land use change, agricultural drainage and in-filling, fragmentation and through poor management.

How are The Wildlife Trusts helping?

Pond restoration projects carried out by local Wildlife Trusts in partnership with organisations like Pond Conservation are aiding these vital habitats by reinstating natural water levels, improving bankside vegetation, providing homes for rare species like water voles and re-wetting floodplains. We are also working closely with planners, developers and farmers to ensure our wetlands are protected. 

What can I do to help?

  • Provide a little space for nature in your garden by creating a wildlife pond – visit The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS’ Wild About Gardens website to find out how.
  • Download The Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Gardening leaflet including instructions on how to create a pond in your garden
  • Buy wildlife gardening products from Vine House Farm – 5% of takings go to your local Wildlife Trust.
  • Take part in conservation measures on your land – ask your local Wildlife Trust for advice on managing ponds sympathetically.
  • Support the work of The Wildlife Trusts anywhere in the UK – become a member of your local trust or volunteer your skills and time.