New clean water ponds increase landscape scale aquatic biodiversity

We have just seen the publication of another journal paper from the Water Friendly Farming project, our collaborative project with the Freshwater Habitats Trust. The paper demonstrates for the first time the effect of creating new ponds on the number of aquatic plant species present in the landscape.

Rolleston Pond CReation

Creating new clean water ponds in low input pasture in 2013

Following discussions with land owners, we created twenty new ponds in one of our two 'treatment' catchments in 2013.  We selected sites very carefully so that the new ponds were in low input pasture or open areas of woodland where runoff into them was not affected by domestic or agricultural sources of nutrients. The selection of these non-productive areas also made the ponds aceptable to farmers; in fact the introduction of ponds onto farms was regarded as improving the landscape and creating additional interest.

Freshwater Habitats Trust researchers conducted a rigorous annual census of aquatic plants, not just in the new ponds but across multiple other small ponds, ditches and streams within the 3,000ha study area to provide a comprehensive understanding of the plant species present and their distribution across the various habitats.

Ponds generally proved to be a key habitat.  Adding our new clean water ponds brought substantial benefits: increasing total-catchment plant species richness by 26%, and the number of rare plant species by 181%. Populations of spatially restricted species also increased. Creating clean-water ponds specifically targeted for biodiversity could therefore hold considerable potential as a tool to help stem, and even reverse, ongoing declines in freshwater plant biodiversity across agricultural landscapes.

You can access our journal paper as a free pdf for a limited period here.

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