Role of ponds highlighted to Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

8th November 2022

Professor Jeremy Biggs, CEO of Freshwater Habitats Trust today (8 November 2022) highlighted the role of ponds in addressing biodiversity loss at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP14).

Representing the EU Horizon 2020-funded PONDERFUL project, in which Freshwater Habitats Trust is a partner, Professor Biggs shared results of Freshwater Habitats Trust research, showing that – at landscape scale – ponds support even more species than rivers. These findings have since been replicated in Denmark, Germany, France and China.

Speaking in Geneva, he also highlighted the systematic bias against small waterbodies in policy, despite the fact that 90 percent of global standing waters are ponds of less than one hectare.

Established in 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of  wetlands. There are now more than 2,400 Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) in 172 countries, with the UK having the highest number at 175.

Professor Biggs’ presentation coincides with a draft resolution on enhancing the conservation and management of small wetlands, which contracting parties will vote on at the COP14. If passed, this new resolution will mean that small waterbodies are better represented within the Ramsar Convention, paving the way for future protection.

The draft resolution includes a number of measures, such as:

  • Urging countries to designate small wetlands that meet the criteria as Wetlands of International Importance.
  • Encouraging countries to develop national plans to promote the conservation and restoration of small wetlands and to effectively manage them to maintain threatened species.
  • New guidance on conducting inventories and monitoring of small wetlands and their ‘multiple values for biodiversity conservation.’

Head and shoulders photo of Professor Jeremy Biggs standing in front of a pond. Professor Jeremy Biggs, CEO of Freshwater Habitats Trust

Professor Jeremy Biggs said: “When we talk about freshwater and wetland habitats we naturally think of big rivers and lakes, and huge expanses of wetland. But in fact, the majority of wetlands are small. Most running waters are small headwater streams and 90% of standing waters are ponds. Evidence – which has been building over the last 20 years – now shows that these habitats are absolutely critical for supporting freshwater biodiversity. Unfortunately, this knowledge of the importance of small waters, has come rather late so they are not properly reflected in most policy.

“Therefore, I warmly welcome the opportunity to speak to delegates at the Ramsar COP14 and the proposed resolution, which is a very important signal of the value of ponds and other small waterbodies for freshwater biodiversity.”

This talk is part of the side event to COP14, taking place from 5 to 13 November 2022 in Wuhan (China) and Geneva (Switzerland). The event, which focuses on the role of wetlands in mitigating and adapting to climate change, protecting biodiversity and delivering ecosystem services is co-organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Geneva Environment Network, with the support of Network Nature and the EU Commission.