Pond Conservation Leaflets

Threats to Ponds

Ponds either native or man made vary considerably in form and situation. Some major causes of loss, damage or threats to ponds are given below.

Inappropriate management

Ponds are sensitive to damage by poor or incorrect management. For example, over-deepening and over-stocking with fish can harm their ecological, archaeological and amenity value.

Natural succession

Through natural succession ponds have gradually filled in with silt and debris and any open water is lost. It is worth maintaining ponds in all stages of succession, from new pools to well vegetated and mature silty ponds. Since change can be natural and is generally predictable in ponds there are many plants and animals that are adapted to living in all these states.


Pollution has caused extensive damage to ponds in Britain; commonly those associated with intensive arable land use or affected by urban runoff. Ponds are vulnerable to pollution because of their small size, isolation (making it more difficult for them to be re-colonised) and the small volume of water available to dilute pollutants. Pollution can be in diverse forms and affect the pond in different ways. Common pollutants affecting ponds are plant nutrients, particularly nitrate and phosphate; heavy metals e.g. zinc, copper and lead; organic matter; pesticides and other complex chemicals; oils; acid deposition; and litter.

Variations in groundwater levels

For many years the land has been drained for agriculture and development. By deepening drains and rivers the water table may be lowered and small, isolated or natural undulations that once held water become dry hollows. With ploughing these can be lost forever.

Infilling/agricultural intensification

Originally ponds on farms would have been dug for livestock watering or as a result of marl extraction. Frequently water troughs have replaced these ponds or depressions and field margins have been removed. Through intensification, small fields have been replaced with huge single crop fields, with no ponds.


Development of land typically entails drainage. Watercourses and ponds are affected by building, transport infrastructure, or simply for land gain and to avoid maintenance commitments. Research has shown that between 1969 and 1993 industry, commerce, housing and transport accounted for approximately 25% of all ponds lost in Cheshire.

Public perceptions and values

Local Authority Planners, at least through their involvement with Community Development Strategies and Development Planning, have the opportunity to develop principles and policies conducive to pond conservation and creation and to encourage their acceptance by the community. Both planners and developers can influence perceptions by stressing ecological and amenity benefits. In the case of newly created ponds, installing an explanatory board close to the pond can be helpful.

As ponds become increasingly isolated, and pond density drops, there will be fewer nearby sources of plant and animals to help re-colonise new or changing ponds

Further information

Publications: - to help with the management and creation of ponds:

  • The Pond Book,   Ponds Conservation Trust, BMS, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford OX3 0BP. £14.00
  • Ponds, Pools and Lochans,  Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. ISBN 1-9011322-16-5

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems

  • SUDS - an introduction,  Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Environment and Heritage Services. Contact Environment Agency.
  • SUDS Best practice manual,   CIRIA ISBN 0-86017-5235. Tel: 020 7222 8891
  • SUDS - a guide for developers,   Environment Agency



Working together to create a future for ponds

Ponds must be protected as wildlife havens and as an important part of our natural heritage for future generations to study, appreciate and enjoy

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