Ponds and biodiversity

England is damp and cloudy, and naturally full of ponds, wetlands and the plants and animals they support. But the drive to intensify agriculture has hit hard. Land drainage, from the Romans onwards, reduced pond numbers to about 1,250,000 in 1890 and to only about 400,000 today.

Most of these ponds were made for watering stock, or were used for foundries, mills or water storage. Many are now polluted from run-off from roads and agricultural fields. Others are changing naturally, through lack of management, and are overgrown by trees or filling with silt. While still important for many species of wildlife, they rarely contain an abundance of common species.

Garden ponds help to reduce this loss. Few will sustain endangered or highly specialised species, but they can be a real haven for many others. Frogs may be doing better in suburban gardens than in the wider countryside. Well-designed garden ponds can provide a refuge for many species of freshwater plants and animals. They are valuable for other wildlife too. Birds drink and bathe in

Top: Frog with reflection. Andy Sands Bottom: Starling. Paul Keene

Opposite: Ragged robin. Chris Gibson/English Nature

Top: Frog with reflection. Andy Sands Bottom: Starling. Paul Keene

Opposite: Ragged robin. Chris Gibson/English Nature the shallow margins, or eat the autumn seed heads of reeds. Insects feed on exposed mud, and at night, bats hunt for flying insects over the water. If you want to see plenty of wildlife close to home, put in a garden pond.

Formal ponds like this one are not built with nature in mind. Bob Gibbons

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