Lack of ponds a ‘national crisis’ — but a new plan hopes to bring ancient seeds back to life

It is hoped the reintroduction of ponds across the country will boost wildlife and regerminate seeds which have lied dormant for hundreds of years.

A team of conservationists and University College London (UCL) are working to restore Britain’s ponds.

The watery habitats were once a common feature on Britain’s farms and green spaces, but now are scarcely found as land is prioritised for other uses.

The team aim to reintroduce at least 50 ponds in ‘The Big50 Initiative’. They hope to boost wildlife, such as the great crested newt, and bees, hoverflies and dragonflies, which provide food for birds, such as the swallow and linnet.

It is also anticipated that the change will regerminate seeds that have lied dormant for hundreds of years, thanks to the warmth and light the new surroundings will bring.

Great crested newts are among the species to benefit from the reintroduction of ponds. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo.

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‘Ponds are a lifeline for Britain’s wildlife providing food and habitat throughout the year, but they are in decline. This is a national crisis,’ said UCL researcher Helen Greaves.

‘We are calling on farmers and the public to help to bring Britain’s ponds back to life and reverse this worrying decline.’

Volunteers will work alongside farmers to restore historic ponds which have become lost to plant growth, after careful surveys for any rare species that may exist on the plot.

Restoration of a particularly overgrown pond usually involves major tree and scrub removal from the south and west sides of a pond to let the light in, followed by mud removal. After this the pond is left to its own devices and it soon starts to welcome in wildlife.

‘It is incredible how quickly the ponds we restore come back to life,’ said UCL’s Dr Carl Sayer. ‘During our restorations we get dragonflies coming to visit for the first time in many decades and by the spring amphibians arrive, often including the charismatic great crested newt.’

The project follows the restoration of 60 ponds in Norfolk by the UCL and Norfolk Ponds Project team. Norfolk has an abundance of farmland ponds, with an estimated 23,000, more than any other English county.

The next 50 ponds will be restored across September and October in Norfolk, Lancashire and Gloucestershire. The restored ponds will monitored by the UCL researchers for water quality and biodiversity.

The Big50 Project is being carried out by the UCL alongside partners including, the Norfolk Ponds Project, the Upper Wensum Farm Cluster Group, Gloucestershire Farming & Wildlife Advisory and The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.