With any luck, this summer you’ll get to enjoy plenty of time outside, taking in the buzz, chirp and croak of hundreds of wildlife species. If you have a garden or outdoor space, a pond is a great way to attract and help more wildlife. The still waters of ponds large or small are important elements of many wider habitats, while also creating their own ecosystems.
Beyond the more obvious species such as frogs and newts, established ponds teem with aquatic insect life. The larval stages of flies, dragonflies, damselflies and beetles dwell and hunt amid the murky depths, spending the vast majority of their life cycle in the pond before a short emergence as adults. Pond skaters balance on surface tension, while water boatmen row with their hairy-legged oars. But it’s not just aquatic insects and amphibians that benefit. Birds and mammals come to the edges of ponds to drink and bathe. Placing logs or stones in the water can also help ensure there is a safe place for pollinators to stop for a drink.
Ponds host a variety of plant life, adapted to survive the wet conditions. Large and small ponds benefit from aquatic plants such as water starwort or spiked water milfoil, which help oxygenate the water.
If you’re thinking of creating your own pond, it’s important to think about structure. Shallower areas and gently sloping sides provide warmer, oxygenated microclimates for plants and animals to thrive in. They also provide a safe edge where birds can bathe. Submerged, floating and emergent plants can act as useful cover for pond dwellers. Fallen leaves and twigs are good hiding places for animals but try to avoid placing your pond under a tree that will shed lots of leaves into the water.
As well as having ponds on several nature reserves, Dorset Wildlife Trust works with landowners and other partners to ensure ponds are well-managed, providing habitats particularly for the rarer species that depend on them. Garden ponds play an important role in this network. They don’t need to be big – in fact, any amount of water can be beneficial, as it encourages aquatic species to spread and colonise new areas.
To learn more about creating your own pond and more projects to help wildlife, visit dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/actions.