Essential Tips To Plan A Garden Pond Ready For The Spring10th January 2024
What Is A Toad Patroller And Why Should You Get Involved?15th February 2024
There are many benefits to having a wildlife pond in your garden. They are not only a source of beauty and relaxation for us, but also a valuable sanctuary for our native wildlife. A pond that is well stocked with aquatic plants will soon attract amphibians, insects, and birds, helping to support local native wildlife and boosting biodiversity.
Once the pond has been stocked with a mixture of submerged, floating and marginal plants, it should soon establish itself as a thriving ecosystem with minimal maintenance required. It’s important to choose the plants carefully, because they play a crucial part in oxygenating the water, providing food and shelter for wildlife, and attracting insects.
Although looking after your pond is not complicated, it is interesting to understand some of the scientific research into what makes ideal conditions for a flourishing garden pond ecosystem. Scientists at Bournemouth University have recently published research into the optimum conditions for macroinvertebrate diversity in garden ponds.
The scientists sought to identify the environmental and spatial factors that influenced macroinvertebrate richness (meaning aquatic insects, slugs, and snails).
These may not be the most attractive and graceful creatures in your pond, but they play a vital role in consuming dead organic matter, as predators to pests, and as a food source for amphibians, reptiles, aquatic birds, and small mammals. Therefore the more abundant and varied the population of these bugs, the healthier and more diverse your pond will be.
The researchers collected data from 30 urban or suburban garden ponds in Oxfordshire, and measured the number of species in each pond. They looked at variables such as the size of the pond, the amount of pond plants, the balance between native and non-native species of plant, the presence of fish, and potential sources of contamination.
One of the key findings was that native species of pond plants boosted biodiversity far more effectively than non-native species. This is because the native plants have evolved to be a natural food source, and also will be better adapted to the local climate. This means that they die back and grow in manageable cycles, and tend not to choke out other species.
On the other hand, non-native species such as parrot’s feather and curly waterweed can quickly become invasive, smothering the light and oxygen and eventually causing the water to become stagnant. They may not die back in the mild UK climate during winter, and may not have any natural predators or diseases to keep levels in check.
Non-native pond plants are not always invasive, and they can be used for ornamental purposes in moderate amounts. However, it is illegal to sell or cultivate certain non-native aquatic plants, so always be cautious and check the list of banned species when buying a new plant.
Other key findings of the study were that bigger ponds were better for diversity, which is probably self-explanatory. The researchers recommend a surface area of at least five square metres, although even a smaller pond can still benefit wildlife. The quality of the water was important too, with rainwater much more beneficial than chemically treated tap water.
Dr Matthew Hill, Lecturer in Ecology at Bournemouth University, who led the study, said: “There are an estimated two and a half to three and a half million garden ponds in the UK and they can add to local biodiversity if they are managed correctly.”
He added: “Many ponds are managed for aesthetics reasons or fishkeeping, rather than as habitats for wildlife. But if we can add biodiversity into the ornamental designs, they could provide an important freshwater resource in urban areas.”
Dr Hill explained: “On the one hand, we want to increase the size and plant richness to increase macroinvertebrate richness, but we also want to manage those unique ponds because they are also contributing to the species pool.”
The report also recommended that local pond-owners should form community groups, so that people have different varieties of plants and other variable environmental conditions for their ponds. This helps to increase local biodiversity by ensuring that each pond has something unique to offer.
Dr Hill explained: “People generally manage their ponds on an individual basis. It would be better if they could be managed collectively as a group of ponds. We don’t want every pond to be the same, we want a wide range of environmental conditions.”
The full report is published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity.