New book challenges us to rethink the importance of ponds

22nd March 2024

A new book, published this spring, will challenge people to rethink the importance of the world’s smallest and most undervalued freshwater habitats. The latest in the Collins New Naturalist series, Ponds, Pools and Puddles is written by Freshwater Habitats Trust CEO Jeremy Biggs and Technical Director Penny Williams.  

Launching in April 2024, it brings together, for the first time, the latest scientific research that demonstrates the value of ponds to life on Earth. This growing body of evidence shows that, despite their small size, at landscape-scale, ponds support a wider range of freshwater plants and animals – and more rare and protected species – than other freshwater habitats, including rivers or lakes. 

Ponds, Pools and Puddles debunks the myth of ponds being artificial habitats, created by humans. It takes the reader on a journey from the formation of the earliest ponds, billions of years ago when the first rains fell, to the present-day challenge of using ponds to tackle the crisis facing life in freshwater. 

As co-founders of national wildlife conservation charity Freshwater Habitats Trust, Jeremy Biggs and Penny Williams have spent more than 35 years studying ponds and communicating their critical importance for freshwater wildlife, putting them in their true context when compared to other freshwater habitats.

Co-author and Freshwater Habitats Trust CEO Professor Jeremy Biggs says: “Simply because they are small, ponds have been largely ignored by scientists and policymakers for over a century. They’re generally dismissed as something you find in gardens or on village greens, rather being understood as a vital and natural part of the network of freshwater habitats. This book challenges that bias and lays out the growing body of evidence that reveals just how important ponds are for freshwater plants and animals.

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The cover of the book Ponds, Pools and Puddles by Jeremy Biggs and Penny Williams.

“We’ve recently seen a surge of public interest in the state of our rivers, but what about the rest of the freshwater environment? Around two-thirds of ponds in England and Wales have been lost since the late 19th century. Those that remain are largely polluted and even many of the best ponds are deteriorating. If we really want to reverse the decline in freshwater biodiversity, we can no longer ignore the smallest habitats in the freshwater environment.” 

Co-author and Freshwater Habitats Trust Technical Director Penny Williams said: “When they hear the word ‘pond’ most people will think of a garden pond, but these small waterbodies have been a natural feature of the Earth for billions of years. Freshwater plants and animals have evolved to use different types of ponds for millennia. In fact, Darwin famously mused that life may have originated in ‘some warm little pond.’  

Man standing in a pond inspecting the contents of a net.

- Freshwater Habitats Trust CEO Professor Jeremy Biggs at the Waddesdon estate. Photo: Jill Mead.

“In Ponds, Pools and Puddles we tell the remarkable natural history of these waterbodies, and their role today as a critical refuge for plants and animals. We bring together evidence, including our own research from Freshwater Habitats Trust, that shows the vital role ponds play in supporting freshwater species. We also share what we the ponds of the past can teach us as we create new clean water ponds to reverse the decline in freshwater biodiversity.” 

As well as providing a comprehensive natural history of ponds and setting out principles for creating and managing ponds for wildlife, the book describes many of the plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals that rely on these small freshwater habitats. 

On 2nd May, the authors will be giving a talk at an online event to celebrate the launch of Ponds, Pools and Puddles.

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Penny Williams

- Penny Williams, Technical Director at Freshwater Habitats Trust