Great Twin Pond Dig (Lancashire)
Over recent decades the majority of farmland ponds have become heavily overgrown rendering them poor in species. However, recent research by the UCL Pond Restoration Research Group (PRRG) in Norfolk has shown that restoration of farmland ponds by careful scrub and sediment removal has spectacular implications for biodiversity conservation at the landscape-scale covering invertebrates, plants, amphibians and even farmland birds (Sayer et al. 2012; Sayer et al. 2013; Davies et al. 2015).
The challenge now is to demonstrate and publicise the positive effects of farmland pond restoration elsewhere in the UK to help influence farmer/public awareness and importantly future agri-environment (AES) policy. This is where Molyneux Kale comes in, in Lancashire. The British Ecological Society (BES) funded “Great Twin Pond Dig” project will twin ponds and people in Bodham, Norfolk and at Chris Molyneux’s farm in Halsall, Lancashire, where similarly abundant “marl-pit ponds” are suffering from widespread overgrowth of trees and scrub rendering them lifeless and species-poor.
The ‘Great Twin Pond Dig’ project will twin two pond areas of the UK that share the common feature of having 1000’s of small marl-pit ponds located in farmland. In each pond area four ponds will be selected for the study; two of which will be restored and two moderately overgrown pond which will be left as a control. Links will be made with local natural histories groups (e.g. Norwich Naturalist Society in Norfolk and West Lancashire Wildlife in Ormskirk), students, farmers (e.g. Holt Farmers Club and the Liverpool Agricultural Discussion Group (LADS)) and locals who will undertake a two year Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) study and in turn promote their project. Restoration will be undertaken in autumn 2017. To facilitate monitoring of water chemistry, invertebrates, plants and amphibians our participants will be provided with simple standardized equipment and methods (as used by the PRRG) and be given training in each area. In this way local natural historians will pass on knowledge to general public and farmer participants. Three project workshops and talks (before, during, end) will be held at both pond localities to get the project going and to feedback results.
The project aims to:
1) re-connect farmers and the public with farmland ponds and their species, in turn promoting wildlife-friendly land management;
2) demonstrate that pond restoration is equally effective in NW England as it is in Norfolk due to comparable ponds and issues;
3) facilitate a discussion on farmland pond conservation, exploring the barriers to restoration of overgrown agricultural ponds whilst addressing a general lack of support for ponds in AES.
“This project will engage myself and other farmers, with the local community and the wider general public so that we can learn from one another and increase our knowledge of pond restoration and biological recording on farmland. Until I met PhD student Helen Greaves from the UCL PRRG I had never really stepped inside the thick undergrowth and explored the pits within them. I had been wanting to gain advice about what to do with them for a long time as I felt they could be improved. By getting involved in this project, I am pleased that I can get directly involved in aquatic conservation and hopefully increase the amount of wildlife on the land I farm.”
For up-to-date information on the GTPD you can follow the UCL Ponds Blog or search Twitter for #GTPD, #adoptapond or #pondtwins. If you would like to attend events linked to the project, on our farm or locally, you can find a full list of events on www.GTPDLancs.eventbrite.com