Jeremy’s Christmas Message 2019

13th December 2019

In 2019 we’ve worked with partners all over the country to protect freshwater wildlife. All of our work aims to protect the best freshwater habitats – many of which are still declining in quality – and return clean water to the countryside, tackling head-on the freshwater biodiversity crisis.

We’re especially concerned about small waters – which make up the majority of the freshwater network and support most freshwater species. For the first time, in 2019, the importance of small waters was recognised by the highly influential IPBES (the International Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) when they noted simply that freshwater habitat “includes streams, rivers, lakes, ponds (temporary or not)….”.

The IPBES recognition is important, but the on-going freshwater crisis means there is no room for complacency. In 2019 we published new data showing the continued decline of high quality freshwaters in our resurvey of high quality National Pond Survey sites first visited in the early 1990s. This reinforces the need for active work to protect these habitats and many threatened species as we are doing at Flagship Ponds sites, and for species like the Medicinal Leech and Fen Violet.

2019 saw the first really definitive evidence that creating ponds in good and degraded landscapes is the only well-evidenced method for making a difference, as shown by the groundbreaking research results from our Water Friendly Farming project, run jointly with Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the practical pond creation for great crested newts with the NatureSpace Partnership.

In running water, the challenges remain enormous, with little evidence of improvement resulting from the efforts to control diffuse pollution by managing the land. Instead, we’re focusing our efforts on protecting high quality streams, like those of the New Forest, working on floodplains and changing landuse to protect freshwater. We started new floodplain projects on the Thames, began work to protect one of Wales richest rivers, the Irfon, and helped the National Trust assess the condition of their headwater streams and ponds.

In 2020 we’ve got a range of exiting work to get started – based on this new evidence and the important research results. With so much to do, we’re looking forward to working with you to stop the decline of freshwater wildlife.