Friday, 11 November 2016

Take a Fresh Look at Ponds

When I say the word 'pond', what do you think of?

I bet the first image that comes to mind is the typical garden pond, free from mud and unwanted species, home to koi (if you're lucky!) or maybe a few goldfish. The pond in your imagination - which is probably much the same as the pond in your own garden - may attract frogs and frog spawn but as far as other species of aquatic creature goes there's not much else going on.

Or maybe your thoughts turned to a pond in your local park, the type that attracts duck and swans, the kind your dog likes to swim in when the weather is warm.

These are what we might call domestic or municipal ponds. They exist to look nice and to support only a very limited number of species (ones that look nice!). They are clean almost to the point of being sterile and while they may be lovely to look at underneath the surface there isn't a whole lot going on. These are not 'real' ponds.

This is a real pond.

Julie by a natural pond
It may not look like much to the human eye but it is fragile
and essential habitat to a vast array of invertebrates.

At first glance this may look like puddle rather than a pond. It's not terribly appealing to the eye. However, as I learned today when I attended the inaugural meeting of the Peterborough Nature Partnership at Thorpe Meadows, this is actually the type of ponds that we need more of.

Would you believe that since the Nene Park Trust (working in partnership with a range of agencies including Buglife and Froglife) created five of these nature ponds late last year they have attracted 51 species of invertebrates between them? That's not 51 individual invertebrates, but 51 distinct species. There is a world of nature that needs specific habitats to thrive and when we help to create their ideal homes just look at how quickly many different species manage to succeed.

I'm not going to share the exact location of these new ponds as it's important that they are slightly off the beaten track and not subjected to what usually happens when humans show up - dogs and litter. I don't need to tell you what litter does to wildlife, but you may be surprised to learn that when a dog enters a pond he can seriously disrupt the fragile habitats of other creatures. I'll certainly be more mindful about permitting my dog to play in nature ponds after learning this today.

Members of Peterborough Nature Partnership walk across Thorpe Meadows
Get your wellies on!
Members of the Peterborough Nature Partnership

You probably associate the garden and municipal ponds that you are more used to with fish. But fish can be a big problem in nature ponds because they eat everything! Another problem that affects many nature ponds is caused by people dumping excess frog spawn from their garden ponds into them. This is a particular problem as it can lead to the transference of crassula, an invasive non-native plant that will quickly overwhelm natural ponds.

The best way to help nature ponds and their inhabitants to thrive is to stay away from them and to appreciate their existence from a distance. This is why the Nene Park Trust will be putting in place 'interpretation boards' to let you know what is in the ponds and how it came to be there, while gently discouraging any activity that might interfere with nature's delicate balance.

Posted by Julie Howell on Friday, 11 November 2016

If this post has whetted your appetite for nature ponds, you'll be really excited to know that I'm currently involved in a project to improve and maintain existing ponds in Orton Waterville. They used to be mill ponds. The windmill that stood in Waterville village is long gone, but the ponds remain, neglected, overgrown and inaccessible. Look out for more posts in coming months as I keep you up-to-date with how the Waterville ponds project is going. If we can attract 51 species of invertebrates to our ponds, how wonderful that would be, but it will take a real community effort to keep the ponds free of rubbish, dogs, humans and others disruptive influences!

Transcript of video: This beautiful area that I’m in today is called Thorpe Meadows and I’m by the rowing lake. The weather’s incredible. I’m actually here for a meeting, a meeting of the Peterborough Nature Partnership which is lots of organisations that have a vested interest, which of course we all do, in the biodiversity of Peterborough, protecting the biodiversity of Peterborough, making sure there are many different species of animals and invertebrates as well as people of course, here to enjoy the wonderful landscape both now and in generations to come. And the weather has been absolutely incredible so I’m feeling particularly lucky today. 

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