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6:09 PM 22nd September 2021
nature

Priority Ponds Project Officer To Protect Nidderdale’s Pond Habitats And Wildlife

Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is partnering with national charity, the Freshwater Habitats Trust, and Yorkshire Water to help save and protect Nidderdale’s ponds.

photo credit Kelly Harmar
photo credit Kelly Harmar
A dedicated Priority Ponds Project Officer is now being recruited to run surveys and deliver training for volunteers to help the long-term protection of the AONB’s priority ponds, thanks to funding through Yorkshire Water’s Biodiversity Programme.

Nidderdale AONB also plans to launch a new citizen science project to help survey and safeguard ponds considered a priority for protection, due to their wildlife interest. The project aims to recruit and train 20 volunteers to help collect biological data on priority species within the AONB across a minimum of 100 ponds, using clean water kits to assess the water quality. In addition, 50 ponds will undergo amphibian surveys for Common Toads, which also qualify ponds as Priority Ponds. The work will also survey dragonflies.

The move comes after volunteers in the AONB’s three-year citizen science project, The Wild Watch, discovered over 1,400 ponds across the AONB, including previously unknown high status Priority Ponds.

The Priority Ponds are classified as such as they support Great Crested Newts - a protected species in the UK - which favour clean ponds during the breeding season.

Concerns were raised by the AONB team around these Priority Ponds being ‘degraded and lost’.

Sarah Kettlewell, Development Team Leader at Nidderdale AONB, said:
“Nationally, data has shown around 90% of ponds are in poor condition with extinction rates for freshwater species six times higher than marine habitats. Research shows supporting priority ponds increases landscape biodiversity by up to 25%. Identifying, protecting, managing and strengthening the freshwater network through pond creation is a priority for the AONB.”

Ben Aston, principal ecologist at Yorkshire Water, said:
“Over the past few decades there has been amazing improvements in the ecology of our rivers, but it’s critical that we also help restore and protect headwater streams and particularly, ponds, which helps diversify and strengthen the ecology and natural processes of our catchments. As such, we are delighted to be able to support this project to help deliver this alongside customers across Nidderdale.”

Anne Carter, Northern England Freshwater Project Officer at Freshwater Habitats, said:
“We will be supporting volunteers to become custodians of their local ponds and pondlife. Our aim is to protect, especially threatened, freshwater life for everyone to enjoy. We’ll be leading training on how to assess freshwater diversity, on pond management for biodiversity, as well as pond creation, and creating sustainable freshwater networks.”

Education packs on ponds will be produced for 20 AONB primary schools and community groups, alongside a guide on how to set up and manage a container pond to encourage families to establish mini garden ponds to help support biodiversity.

The work will ultimately help highlight ponds for designation, such as SSSI status, which gives higher levels of protection to conserve the pond’s special features.

Information on how to volunteer will be released later in the year.

Find out more at nidderdaleaonb.org.uk