Pond life successions

Pond life successions

© Darin Smith

Like a forest has successional stages, so does a pond. As a pond matures, it becomes attractive to different species. And like you manage a forest, you can also manage a pond's succession.

Ponds are incredibly important for wildlife; in fact, they support two thirds of all freshwater species. However, sadly during the 20th Century, the UK lost 50% of its ponds (Freshwater Habitats Trust). If we want to make a difference to wildlife in our own gardens, then I would suggest that creating a pond may be the most beneficial thing that we can do.

 If you would like advice on pond creation, you can find some information sheets on our website www.hiwwt.org.uk/actions.

© David Kilbey

© David Kilbey

As a pond matures and moves through several successional stages, it will become attractive to a variety of different species. Certain species prefer particular developmental stages; therefore, all stages of pond development are potentially valuable.

I renovated a very old and neglected water feature in my garden back in March. It hadn't been touched for years and was simply full of rather smelly silt and no water.  I removed the silt, cleared it back to the liner, created a shallow pebble beach area and placed bricks and stones in the very deep part to allow safe access for wildlife. I haven't introduced anything to the pond therefore the species that are appearing are making their own way there. I have so far seen pond skaters, water beetles and midge larvae. If you have water beetles in your pond, look closely and you may see a little silver bubble attached to their underside. This is a bubble of air that they take down into the water to enable them to breathe.  

I'll be watching my pond closely over the next few months to see what else colonises but if you'd like your pond to colonise a little faster, you may want to consider introducing some native oxygenating plants and marginal plants.

Susan Simmonds pond

Once a pond becomes a little more established it will hopefully attract a number of other species including dragonflies. These beautiful creatures will lay their eggs in the water where they will develop into larvae. The larvae have an incredible jaw which they are able to unhinge and lunge forwards in order to catch their prey. They live in the water as larvae for anything up to a couple of years before emerging and climbing up onto the stem or leaf of a marginal plant. Here they will undergo a process known as incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that they change from a larva to an adult, without a pupal stage. If you're lucky you may find the dry, shed skins on marginal plants, known as exuviae.

In spring you may notice clumps of frog spawn or strings of toad spawn. These tiny black dots will hopefully become tadpoles. If you don't have frogs or toads, you may of course have newts. These beautiful creatures lay their eggs singly, wrapping them in vegetation within the pond. They differ from frogs and toads in that they develop their front legs first. They breathe using external gills which develop behind their head. In late summer, young newts will lose their gills and both young and adult newts will usually leave the water and shelter beneath rocks and logs on land.

Frog swimming surrounded by frogspawn

© David Kilbey

If you want to enhance your pond for wildlife, there are a number of things you can do. You can ensure that you provide oxygenating and marginal plants, you can make sure that you have gently sloping sides for easy access and provide several rocks, logs or a beach area above the water level for basking and breathing. If possible, leave one side of your pond as an undisturbed, wild area with a log or rock pile for creatures to shelter under after emerging from the water.

Ponds and other water habitats come in all shapes and sizes and can be modified to fit in all kinds of spaces. If you would like advice on pond creation, you can find some information sheets on our website www.hiwwt.org.uk/actions, or you may find some of these videos useful.


 Susan Simmonds, June 2020

Blashford Wild Days Out Bioblitz Bush cricket

Blashford Wild Days Out Bioblitz Bush cricket © T Standish

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