The ‘Ghost Ponds Project’ is a novel approach to pond research and conservation practice. We are investigating the potential for old agricultural ponds – which have either been deliberately filled for land reclamation, or which have been allowed to disappear gradually through terrestrialisation – to be returned to the landscape. We are especially interested in the role of the old seed and egg bank buried within these ‘ghost ponds’, and how it can contribute to their re-colonisation and return to the world of the living.
Ponds are important biodiversity hotspots, and can contribute significantly to regional aquatic biodiversity, while providing stepping-stones for both terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. Farmland ponds are especially important, not only because of their high densities in many parts of the UK (especially in Norfolk – the focus of this study so far), but because they can provide oasis of biodiversity across a landscape which can otherwise be fairly unforgiving to wildlife. With such large areas of the UK dominated by farmland, it is important to consider how we can help maintain our wildlife in this habitat, and not just focus on nature reserves and national parks.
We hope the ‘Ghost Ponds Project’ illustrates how farming and conservation can successfully co-exist, and inspires a new appreciation of the wildlife value of agricultural ponds, which are often overlooked.
This research forms my current PhD project ‘Ghost ponds : Resurrecting lost ponds and species to assist aquatic biodiversity conservation’. The project is run through University College London, and is supervised by Dr. Carl Sayer and Dr. Jan Axmacher. The project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), with support from Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership and ENSIS Ltd.