A high proportion of ponds are temporary in nature, although the biodiversity value of such sites is still poorly recognized. This work explored the plant and macroinvertebrate communities of 76 temporary and fluctuating water bodies in two regions of southern England (Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall and New Forest, Hampshire) that have retained high pond densities. The ecology and conservation status of sites is examined, and comparisons made with ponds elsewhere in England and Wales.
Lizard and New Forest ponds supported 119 plant and 165 macroinvertebrate species respectively. Patterns of community similarity for plants and macroinvertebrates were highly concordant, taxa being related in a similar manner to measured environmental variables including pond area, depth, pH and water chemistry.
Patterns of pond occupancy revealed that most species were locally rare, over half occurring in less than 10% of ponds, and less than 10% being recorded from more than 50% of sites. More than 50% of ponds supported at least one nationally rare plant and almost 75% at least one nationally rare macroinvertebrate. These taxa occupied a wide range of pond types in each region, and did not have predictably different ecologies from common species.
Comparisons with ponds elsewhere in England and Wales revealed that Lizard and New Forest communities are nationally distinct, being most similar to ponds in areas of low intensity agriculture elsewhere in western Britain. Individual ponds in both regions supported more nationally rare taxa, on average, than ponds sampled in the national survey.
Ponds in the two areas have high conservation value, both regionally and nationally, supporting almost 75% of the global species richness of temporary ponds sampled across England and Wales. Within each region, many taxa are found in relatively few sites, and effective conservation of pond biodiversity will require a regional management approach.