Ponds for attracting wildlife
It has often been assumed (especially by biologists) that rivers and lakes have a higher conservation value than ponds. New evidence shows this is not true.
A comparison of the number of invertebrate animal species collected from 600 rivers and 150 ponds across Britain showed that, in total, the ponds supported more invertebrate species than rivers.
We now know that nationally, about two thirds of all Britain’s freshwater plants and animals can be found in domestic ponds (freshwaterhabitats.co.uk).
Invertebrates include dragonflies, mayflies, snails, water fleas and many others. There are at least 4000 species of freshwater invertebrate in the UK, about two thirds of which can live in ponds (Institute of Freshwater Ecology, 1999).
Amongst these are many rare, vulnerable and endangered species. The British Red Data Books list about 300 threatened freshwater invertebrate species, over two thirds of which are found in ponds. This includes two of the rarest animals in Britain today, the Tadpole Shrimp and the Glutinous Snail.
“Ponds have been around commonly and continuously for millions of years”
A good pond might have over 100 of the larger invertebrate species (like beetles, dragonflies, snails and caddisflies); exceptional ponds could support over 150 species.
All of our native amphibians – frogs, toads and newts, are pond specialists, and use these small waterbodies as their main breeding habitat. One of our native reptiles, the grass snake, also loves ponds, mainly because frogs and sometimes fish are amongst its favourite foods.
Adult amphibians spend most of their time on land, but many individuals remain close to their home pond, particularly when young, and some hibernate in ponds over winter.
Different amphibians need different pond types. Common Toads survive well in deep, fishy ponds because their tadpoles are distasteful to fish. Other species are not so tolerant. Great Crested Newts, for example, often do best in ponds that dry out occasionally since this gets rid of fish which prey on newt larvae.
Creating a wildlife pond helps to encourage wildlife into your garden by recreating lost habitat.
Species like the Common Frog now do better in man-made garden ponds than the wilder countryside. And this is good news for reducing slugs and snails in your garden as they form part of the frogs’ diet.
Fish are not normally suited for wildlife ponds because they eat all the small larvae and eggs from invertebrates and amphibians.
Frog life– How to make a pond
Discover Wildlife – How to make a wildlife pond
BBC Autumnwatch – How to make a wildlife pond
Wildlife Trust – How to build a pond
Researchgate.net. Pdf on the value of ponds