Priority ponds are waterbodies that have a particularly high conservation value: usually because they support important freshwater species or rare community types. These ponds can be permanent or seasonal waterbodies and can span a wide size range: from 1m2 to 2ha in area.

The criteria used to identify priority ponds were originally listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, Priority Habitat Descriptions: Ponds BRIG (2008).

The concept of priority habitats was developed as part of the UK government’s commitment as a signatory to the international Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993. Ponds were first identified as priority habitats in 2007 (BRIG 2007). The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 provides the legal basis for their conservation. The term ‘Habitat of Principal Importance’ is now more correctly used for priority ponds.

Freshwater Habitats Trust played an instrumental role in security priority habitat status for ponds in 2007. Now we’re working with Natural England to identify and record more of the country’s best ponds. Identifying priority ponds (now a habitat of principal concern) helps agencies, organisations and individuals to protect and enhance ponds and the critical freshwater wildlife they support.