Habitat Replacement and Wildlife Ponds

In order to attract wildlife in and around ponds, it is necessary to create the right environment. Most british pond and bog garden plants will attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.  There is no reason why non-native pond plants cannot be introduced as long as they are not invasive and dont upset the eco balance.  Further, native plants should not be dug up from the wild and re-planted.

Ponds should have shallow, sloping sides making it easy for wildlife and small animals to drink and enter and exit the water safely.  Invasive plants should be avoided except for very large ponds or lakes.  These include alisma cultivars, acorus calamus, typha cultivars, butomus cultivars, cyperus longus, phalaris cultivars, glyceria cultivars, equisetum hymale, mentha aquatica (water mint), oenanthes flamingo, hydrocotyl vulgaris, hippuris vulgaris and menyanthes trifoliata

Plenty of marginal pond plants (plants that grow at the water’s edge up to 20 cm deep, depending on variety) , including some flowering varieties, aquatic grasses and rushes, all provide excellent cover around the pond.  Recommended varieties for smaller ponds are:- caltha cultivars, pontaderia cultivars, anemopsis californicum, typha gracilis, cardamine cultivars, iris cultivars, mimulus ringens, mazus cultivars, lysichiton cultivars, lythrum swirl, lythrum salicara robert, ranunculus flammula, myasotis cultivars, stachys palustris, orontium aquaticum and thalia dealbata.

It is also important to provide oxygenating, deep water and submerged plants as they ensure underwater cover, oxygenate the water and remove excessive nitrates.  The latter cause blanket weed and other algae.  Free-floating plants such as water soldiers (stratiotes aloides) and water lilies offer additional cover and shade.

Warm sunny weather will create the right conditions for the emergence of mayflies, dragonflies and damselflies, which spend 95% of their lives in water before their metamorphoses into flying adults.  These pre-historic insects have hardly changed over the last 300 million years.  The emerging nymphs crawl out of the water and up the stems where they hatch into airborne adults.  They seem to favour the following marginal plants which are suitable for smaller ponds:- pontaderia cultivars, typha gracilis, iris cultivars, lysichiton cultivars, orontium aquaticum and thalia dealbata and, for larger ponds and lakes :- alisma cultivars, acorus cultivars, typha cultivars, butomus cultivars, glyceria cultivars and equisetum hymale. The provision of shrubs and moisure loving perennials around the pond will also encourage these insects by providing cover and protection from rain and windy weather.

Water daphnia are excellent as filter feeders and can be very beneficial to ponds as they clear green water.  There are around 80 different species and most aquatic retailers sell them. They feed on bacteria and very small algae.

There are mixed views about the benefits versus the drawbacks of pond snails.  On the plus side they help reduce the build up of decaying organic matter on the pond bottom.  However, their waste increases nitrate levels in the water and snails will often munch on water lilies and other aquatic plants.

When your habitat replacement project is complete, you will be amazed at how quickly wildlife arrives and takes up refuge for living and breeding.  Airborne, you can expect the arrival of water boatmen, diving beetles, mayflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Sticklebacks and other fish eggs will be brought on the feet of visiting herons, coots, moorhens, kingfishers and ducks.  Small mammals, grass snakes, frogs, toads, newts and if you are very lucky, greater crested newts, will arrive by land.

Habitat replacement is crucial in conserving and protecting wetland and aquatic ecosystems, not to mention the interest and enjoyment ponds and streams can bring to schools, homes, villages, golf courses and other public places.

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