Priority ponds are defined as permanent and seasonal standing water bodies up to 2ha in area which are important for the freshwater wildlife they support. Usually priority ponds are those which are near natural in the composition of their plant and animal communities, support endangered or protected species or have unusually diverse communities.
We do not yet know where all priority ponds are found, but they probably represent 10-20% of the c.250,000 ponds in England. Finding the priority ponds will help protect England’s freshwater wildlife as these are the ponds which support the most vulnerable species and the most natural communities, and which are most in need of protection having disappeared from large swathes of the countryside.
The reason for focusing first on the priority ponds is that, unless we do this, the variety of life found in ponds generally will continue to decline. Even in nature reserves, some ponds have continued to lose endangered and sensitive species over the last 25 years. Because of the exceptional richness of ponds, which often exchange species with rivers, lakes and streams, this has a big effect on the variety of freshwater plants and animals in the landscape as a whole. In other words, we need to ensure that we protect the best and most fragile ponds as part of restoring freshwater biodiversity more generally.
We know that the best way to conserve all the species associated with ponds is to protect and increase the extent of their habitat. For this to be sustainable and appropriate for all species these ponds should be as naturally functioning as possible.
Naturally functioning ponds are those with:
- Water chemistry that is not impacted by pollution
- A natural morphology and physical process enabling connectivity with surrounding habitats and the maintenance of habitat diversity
- A natural hydrological regime not impacted by abstraction, drainage or impoundments
- Natural biological assemblages with a lack of invasive non-native species.
A Priority Ponds map for ponds we presently know has been produced, but this has, by necessity, been based on partial data sets. A map with the location of Provisional Priority Ponds has also been produced, based on the location of ponds which have been shown to be free from nutrient pollution. We also want your help to enter new records.