Ponds and the importance of their history: an audit of pond numbers, turnover and the relationship between the origins of ponds and their contemporary plant communities in south-east Northumberland, UK
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An increasing focus of interest in ponds over the last two decades arose largely because of concerns at the loss of ponds in intensively developed landscapes. In the UK, pond numbers declined from approximately 800,000 in the nineteenth century to 200,000 by the 1980s. Since then pond numbers have started to increase. The focus on overall pond numbers overlooks the importance of the history and origins of different pond types. This study combines a detailed map based audit of pond numbers in south-east Northumberland, UK, recorded at seven time intervals since the mid-nineteenth century with a survey of contemporary plant communities in ponds with known and distinct histories to examine changes to numbers of ponds and communities associated with ponds with different origins. 222 ponds were recorded in the study area in the mid-nineteenth century, 257 in 2005/08. However, only 23 of the original ponds had survived with substantial losses and gains at all the map survey dates linked to changed land use from agriculture to coal mining then development of nature reserves and golf courses. Contemporary ponds on nature reserves, golf courses and subsidence ponds supported rather different plant communities to each other, with non-native invasives in golf and nature reserve sites, whilst individual reserves differed from one another perhaps due to intentional planting. Surviving old farm ponds were usually degraded. The results show that the history of ponds in a region can create an important cultural biodiversity which pond conservation strategies should incorporate.
KeywordsPonds History Number Plant communities
Thank you to the many landowners who allowed access to ponds on their land, in particular the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Druridge Bay Country Park, Rio Tinto Alcan Farms and Longhirst Golf Course. Referees and Dani Boix made very helpful suggestions to strengthen the paper. I am very grateful for the invitation to present this work at the 4th European Pond Conservation Network meeting at Erkner. The study was carried out as a contribution to the Druridge Bay Landscape Partnership ‘Coal and Coast’ project.
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