Page last updated at 01:43 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Pollution leaves British ponds 'in terrible state'

Frog in a pond
Freshwater ponds provide vital habitat for a vast array of animal and plant life

Britain's ponds are in "a terrible state", according to the first national survey of them to be carried out.

Research by charity Pond Conservation found that 80% were in a "poor" or "very poor" state, and their condition had deteriorated markedly since 1996.

Director Dr Jeremy Biggs said ponds were an "important reservoir for freshwater wildlife", but were being damaged by pollution and urban sprawl.

He is calling for a concerted effort to clean up old ponds and create new ones.

Overgrown and stagnant

According to Pond Conservation, there were about one million freshwater ponds in Britain at the start of the 20th century, supporting a vast array of animals, plants and insects.

But the charity says half of those ponds have now disappeared.

Dr Biggs told the BBC: "It's really just the development of the countryside - building, intensification of the landscape - the same kind of things that have led to the loss of the hedgerows."

The survey, which was funded by the government, found that the majority of Britain's ponds were polluted, some by industrial waste, but many more by chemicals from neighbouring farmland.

The thing you need to make a good pond is just really clean water
Dr Jeremy Biggs
Director, Pond Conservation

These agricultural pollutants can cause a huge increase in nutrients in the water which then leads to ponds becoming overgrown and stagnant.

Pond Conservation said it was shocking that things had reached this state, but stressed that the situation was not a lost cause.

It has launched the Million Ponds Project which aims, over the next 50 years, to put back the 500,000 ponds that have been lost during the last century.

Dr Biggs said: "In the past, lots of processes made ponds naturally, but nowadays man has such tight control of the landscape that really that doesn't happen any more, so... we need to make them ourselves.

"The thing you need to make a good pond is just really clean water.

"If you have that clean catchment there's nothing more to it than that. It's very simple, anyone can do it."

The charity plans to start its project by creating 5,000 high-quality ponds in England and Wales over the next four years.

"They're a really important reservoir for freshwater wildlife," Dr Biggs added. "They're just as important as our rivers and lakes... and we think that's really important to maintain that resource."

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