Original ghost


Original ghost before resurrection.  The white arrows mark the edges of the pond.  Many ghost ponds remain visible as damp patches or depressions out in the fields.
August 2013 – Original ghost before resurrection. The white arrows mark the edges of the pond. Many ghost ponds remain visible as damp patches or depressions out in the fields.
Test trench - before excavation, a test trench was dug in each ghost pond, to reveal the level of the old sediment layer (black colour).  Here Emily, Dom and Ian are measuring the depth of the sediment and taking samples for lab experiments.
September 2013 – Digging a test trench – before excavation, a test trench was dug in each ghost pond, to reveal the level of the old sediment layer (black colour). Here Emily, Dom and Ian are measuring the depth of the sediment and taking samples for lab experiments.
Excavation of Original ghost well under way.  The dark sediment layer, which contains dormant seeds and eggs, is visible below the sandy top soil.  Ground water has already started seeping into the pond, and dragonflies have already arrived and started laying eggs!
September 2013 – Excavation of Original ghost well under way. The dark sediment layer, which contains dormant seeds and eggs, is visible below the sandy top soil. Ground water has already started seeping into the pond, and dragonflies have already arrived and started laying eggs!
Day two, and Original ghost is finished.  Spoil removed from the pond has been spread on the surrounding field, and some of the tree stumps and branches removed from the pond are piled at the side (just out of shot), forming a hibernaculum for overwintering creatures.  Already the pond is filling with water (at this stage just below wellie height), both from seepage and rainfall.
September 2013 – Day two, and Original ghost is finished. Spoil removed from the pond has been spread on the surrounding field, and some of the tree stumps and branches removed from the pond are piled at the side (just out of shot), forming a hibernaculum for overwintering creatures. Already the pond is filling with water (at this stage just below welly height), both from seepage and rainfall.
Five weeks on (November), and I return to sample Original ghost.  The pond is filling well, and is about 90cm deep.  The ledge which the boat is on will soon be submerged, forming a shallow platform for emergent plants.  The pond has a 7m buffer strip, although beans from a previous year's crop are growing in this at the moment!  Despite it being winter, the pond has already been colonised by 7 species of beetle, and a good zooplankton population has established as well.  No aquatic plants yet.
October 2013 – Five weeks on, and I return to sample Original ghost. The pond is filling well, and is about 90cm deep. The ledge which the boat is on will soon be submerged, forming a shallow platform for emergent plants. The pond has a 7m buffer strip, although beans from a previous year’s crop are growing in this at the moment! Despite it being winter, the pond has already been colonised by 7 species of beetle, and a good zooplankton population has established as well. No aquatic plants yet.
Seven weeks on.  The shallow ledge is now submerged, and will provide a good rooting platform for plants.  The water, which two weeks before was clear, is now turning slightly green with algae.
November 2013 – Seven weeks on. The shallow ledge is now submerged, and will provide a good rooting platform for plants. The water, which two weeks before was clear, is now turning slightly green with algae.
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January 2014 (week 18) – Original ghost is now full.  Currently the water is quite green and turbid, due to recent storms and heavy rain.  A previous year’s been crop is growing in what should be the pond margin – we haven’t yet decided whether this should be left or removed.
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February 2014 – Original ghost is looking much as it did in week 18 (all be it somewhat more windswept), although some aquatic plants are starting to appear.  Ranunculus sceleratus (celery leaved buttercup) is beginning to establish on the banks, while one tiny Chara sp. (stonewort), was seen under the water. 
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February 2014 – Hopefully by the next survey  later in the spring, more plant species will have started to establish – perhaps the broad-leaved pond weed (Potamogeton natans), which has abundant fossil seed and leaf remains in the sediments from Original ghost.
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May 2014 – Original ghost seems to be going through a ‘pea soup’ stage, with an extensive algal bloom turning the previously clear water green and murky.  There has been little change in the plants, with the one Chara germination seen before still the only apparent vegetation.  It is not uncommon for new and restored ponds to go through an algal dominated phase, and then recover later in the year, so we are not too worried yet.
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June 2014 (9 months in) – Original ghost is progressing fairly slowly in terms of vegetation cover – so far the only aquatic species is a fairly sparse cover of Chara (stonewort) sp. This month has seen quite a bloom of filamentous algae, but at least the water is now starting to clear!  Hopefully a few more species will be appearing before too long – there are new arrivals in the mini-ponds around the edge of Original ghost, but these haven’t yet appeared in the pond itself.  Although the plants might be lagging behind a bit, the pond is buzzing with insect life, with 5 species of dragonfly & damselfly recorded on one visit.
Original-pot-natans
June 2014 – While Original ghost as yet only contains Chara sp., the surrounding microcosms containing sediment from the pond have a second species in them – Potamogeton natans (broad leaved pondweed).  This has germinated in both the uncovered, and the covered microcosms (pictured), strongly suggesting that it has come from the historic seed bank.  It may well be that warmer conditions, and lack of disturbance from wildlife, have mean that germinations are occurring earlier in the microcosms than in the pond.  It will be interesting to see whether broad leaved pondweed does indeed appear in Original ghost over the next few months. P. natans in fact first germinated in the covered microcosms back in October, but at this early stage it was not possible to identify the “small green strappy plant”.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJuly 2014 –  While the margins around Original ghost remain fairly bare, aquatic plants finally seem to be getting a foothold.  The filamentous algae bloom has died back, and the water is now clearing.  The beds of Chara have now expanded across most of the pond, while Potamogeton natans has appeared in the pond itself (previously restricted to the microcosms).

Jensens-charaJuly 2014 – Thick beds of Chara have now expanded across most of Original ghost.

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July 2014 – As well as Chara, we now have the first P.natans germinations occurring in Original ghost.  P.natans was first recorded in the microcosms around Original ghost back in February, but it seems it has taken a while longer to re-establish in the pond itself.  Perhaps the smaller size and warmer temperatures in the microcosms trigger earlier germinations.

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August 2014 – The water in Original ghost is continuing to clear, and aquatic plants are beginning to dominate the pond.  New patches of P. natans are cropping up, and there appear to be two species of Chara now growing vigorously.

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August 2014 – Looking down into Original ghost, you can see the thick green beds of Chara, with smaller patches of P. natans emerging to the surface.

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August 2014 – In the microcosms around Original ghost, the P. natans which first appeared right back in October 2013 is doing well.  Several microcosms are also full to the brim with Chara.

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August 2014 – It is not just the plants which seem to be doing well in the microcosms around Original ghost – this picture shows a large flock(?) of Daphnia, their green intestines giving away their diet of green algae. The zooplankton in the covered microcosms seem to be consistently very large and in high numbers – perhaps due to lower numbers of predatory invertebrates, combined with the warmer temperatures in these microcosms.

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September 2014 – Original ghost is one year old, and looking fantastic!  The water is now gin-clear, revealing the thick beds of chara which cover the pond.  There are now six true-aquatic plant species in the pond, and a further 10 water-associated species.

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September 2014 – Looking down through the water in Original ghost.

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September 2014 – The thick cover of chara and broadleaved pondweed in Original ghost is mirrored in the miniponds which contain the same sediment.  These species are also growing well in the aquaria containing sediment from this pond (see aquaria study updates).

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November 2014 – From the surface, Original ghost (like the other ponds), is looking somewhat gloomy, with aquatic vegetation having apparently died back for the winter.  Throw a rake into the pond however, and there is plenty of plant & invertebrate life still active below the surface!  

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June 2015 –  Now in it’s second year, Original ghost now contains 20 species of aquatic and water associated plant.  The broadleaved pondweed (Potamogeton natans), has really started to spread since September.

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June 2015 –  This time last year, the margin around Original ghost was pretty much a monoculture of the previous season’s crop of broad beans.  Now however, the margin is a diverse assemblage of native wildflowers (with the exception of the odd borage plant!) – buttercups, marsh and field woundwort, and a diverse array of grasses.

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2 responses to “Original ghost

  1. Just beautiful. How near is the nearest pond or body of water with similar biodiversity? Did you ever have the buried pond-bottom sampled for preserved organic materials identification for a comparison to present day species? Curious, because I think it would make a great study or commercial seeding soil for pond landscaping.

    • Hi Greg – There are a few ponds near-by (on the same farm, within 1km), with similarly high biodiversity, including the restored ‘Horseshoe Pond’, which is in the same field as Original Ghost. Some of the neighbouring ponds contain similar species, while others have quite different compositions. The buried pond-bottom was indeed sampled, and found to contain seeds and leaf remains closely matching the present day species. Some of the seeds from the buried sediment were found to be viable and to germinate, so there is indeed potential for ‘seeding’ new ponds from the buried sediment of Ghost Ponds. This could be a nice tool for seeding new ponds with locally sourced native species. There would have to be some consideration as to how far a pond seedbank could be translocated before you risk introducing novel species to an area, but at a small local scale it could be a useful method.

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