Wetlands - What are they? Where are they?

Any and all of the following deserve consideration - Flushes, springs, marshy grassland, inundation grassland, areas with impeded drainage (agricultural and industrial), drainage sumps, subsidence hollows, marsh, swamp, fen, mire, heathland pools, carrs, wet woodland hollows, sand dune pools, brackish coastal lagoons, marlpits, brickpits, quarries, lagoons, bellpits, dewponds, troughs and wells, stock ponds, conservation ponds, oxbows, fish ponds, duck ponds, lodges, mill ponds, reservoirs, brick/concrete tanks, old wheel-washes, old swimming pools, filter beds, abandoned sewerage installations, flooded basements, garden ponds, landscape features, golfing ponds, lakes, pingos, canals, goits or leats, ditches, drains, streams and rivers, including river flood channel ponds. Drained-down reservoirs often contain a pond in the base. An understanding of hydrology and the clues from the botany are fundamental in identifying ponds.

At one planning appeal site in Radcliffe in the 1990s only 4 of the 13 Great Crested Newt breeding ponds were indicated on Ordnance Survey maps of the time. None of the ponds were either identified as Great Crested Newt breeding ponds or even identified as present by the Large Environmental Company working for the developer who then committed a great deal of resources before finally losing on appeal on wildlife and hydrology grounds.

Drawing on two Habitat Surveys of the Borough one North West Council estimated 350 small ponds existed in the Borough. The number of ponds later surveyed in the Borough's blanket survey for Great Crested Newts by Dave Bentley Ecology Services was 683. Many of these additional ponds did not appear on Ordnance Survey maps and had been missed by the Habitat Survey consultants, or did appear on maps but were still marked as absent. Some of the ponds appeared on old maps over a century old but had been deleted by the OS in the intervening years despite still existing as wetlands. Cartographers are not, by and large, ecologists. This single visit blanket survey was conducted in the same year as five multi-method multi-visit surveys conducted in the Borough by other consultancies and remarkably each of those consultants missed ponds and amphibian species (in two cases missing Great Crested Newts) on their own client's land.

Many ponds are dry some years yet the next year they are full of water and brimming with rather special life. The importance of seasonal ponds cannot be overstated. Thus the emphasis of a survey should be to identify wetlands rather than holes containing water and to consider their hydrology. Shaded ponds too have their own specialist fauna and too often in the recent past they were dismissed as SODs "Shaded out dead" without any proper consideration of the pond's ecology.

There is no such thing as a typical pond and no ideal state for a pond to be in. Management prescriptions can only be drawn up after a careful consideration of the pond's ecology and hydrology. Often the prescription is no management at all. Pond "restoration" can be very damaging - extreme desilting of ponds "to benefit Great Crested Newts" can allow fish invasions, either natural or deliberate, to take hold. A pond's botany, invertebrates, amphibians, mammals and birdlife and perhaps other groups need to be properly catered for in any decision making.

The basis for any pond survey has to involve an examination of old maps together with thorough field-walking and sufficient knowledge of what ponds are. Dave Bentley Ecology Service can offer you a complete pond survey service.

Some examples of different wetlands:

Old pit with little marsh now          Community-owned millpond           Concrete tank                                 Carr in long-drained reservoir

Cowfield marlpit with marshland    Garden pond in old gasometer      New golf course pond                     On-stream pond fronting hotel


             Large garden pond in countryside   Leaking, silted millpond               Marlpit extended for farm angling   Open marlpit on urban edge       

 Conservation pond in open space         Fen habitat in garden pond                 Marshy marlpit               New fish pond on site of infilled marlpit

New farm access pond with artwork       Pond in woodland glade            Damp grassland in meadow     Extended former millpond in farmland

Ditch on school-playing field         Shaded pit gone from map            Sphagnum moss on drained goit   Sphagnum carr in long drained millpond

Ex-angling marlpit with Water-soldier     Shaded old brickworks pit             Shaded pit in large copse            New stream-fed pond 


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For a no obligation chat about your requirements call Dave Bentley Ecology Services on 0161 478 6594 or 07598 742566. We are here to help. Email info1@davebentleyecology.co.uk. If you are sending large files please send them to big2@dave...... In the case of over quota bounce-backs try "big2" before the @ symbol. We are a Bury-based ecological consultancy. 35 years experience in nature conservation!!



Text and images copyright of Dave Bentley 2007 & 2011. Banner panorama photo H Groth-Andersen 2006.

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