The ecology of European ponds: defining the characteristics of a neglected freshwater habitat
There is growing awareness in Europe of the importance of ponds, and increasing understanding of the contribution they make to aquatic biodiversity and catchment functions. Collectively, they support considerably more species, and specifically more scarce species, than other freshwater waterbody types. Ponds create links (or stepping stones) between existing aquatic habitats, but also provide ecosystem services such as nutrient interception, hydrological regulation, etc. In addition, ponds are powerful model systems for studies in ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology, and can be used as sentinel systems in the monitoring of global change. Ponds have begun to receive greater protection, particularly in the Mediterranean regions of Europe, as a result of the identification of Mediterranean temporary ponds as a priority in the EU Habitats Directive. Despite this, they remain excluded from the provisions of the Water Framework Directive, even though this is intended to ensure the good status of all waters. There is now a need to strengthen, develop and coordinate existing initiatives, and to build a common framework in order to establish a sound scientific and practical basis for pond conservation in Europe. The articles presented in this issue are intended to explore scientific problems to be solved in order to increase the understanding and the protection of ponds, to highlight those aspects of pond ecology that are relevant to freshwater science, and to bring out research areas which are likely to prove fruitful for further investigation.
KeywordsBiodiversity Conservation Ecosystem services European Pond Conservation Network Small water bodies Temporary pools Water policy Wetlands
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