A comparison of the catchment sizes of rivers, streams, ponds, ditches and lakes: implications for protecting aquatic biodiversity in an agricultural landscape
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In this study we compared the biodiversity of five waterbody types (ditches, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams) within an agricultural study area in lowland England to assess their relative contribution to the plant and macroinvertebrate species richness and rarity of the region. We used a Geographical Information System (GIS) to compare the catchment areas and landuse composition for each of these waterbody types to assess the feasibility of deintensifying land to levels identified in the literature as acceptable for aquatic biota. Ponds supported the highest number of species and had the highest index of species rarity across the study area. Catchment areas associated with the different waterbody types differed significantly, with rivers having the largest average catchment sizes and ponds the smallest. The important contribution made to regional aquatic biodiversity by small waterbodies and in particular ponds, combined with their characteristically small catchment areas, means that they are amongst the most valuable, and potentially amongst the easiest, of waterbody types to protect. Given the limited area of land that may be available for the protection of aquatic biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, the deintensification of such small catchments (which can be termed microcatchments) could be an important addition to the measures used to protect aquatic biodiversity, enabling ‘pockets’ of high aquatic biodiversity to occur within working agricultural landscapes.
KeywordsWatershed Microcatchment Aquatic biodiversity Agri-environment schemes Diffuse pollution
The authors would like to thank Glen Hart and the Ordnance Survey for provision of MasterMap and Landform Profile data and Geoff Smith and CEH Monks Wood for provision of Land Cover Map 2000 data. We are also grateful to Steven Declerck and two anonymous referees for very useful comments on an earlier draft of this text.
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