Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The ponds' Antiques Road Show

The month of March may have been cold but there has also been little rain. No wonder many of the shallow field flashes have dried out since November. The ponds of south east Northumberland have changed over the decades too. Here are some simple data from a talk I gave last week to the north-east branch of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. Always glad to have people turn up; I still fret that ponds don't quite have the allure of the Large Hadron Collider even though ponds are especially rich in wildlife compared to the large lakes and rivers that dominate the imaginations of policy makers. The data are for the south east corner of Northumberland, in a triangle roughly from Amble, at the north end of Druridge Bay, south to Newcastle inland and Tynenouth, the latter at the coast. I counted all the ponds (...and moats, troughs, tanks and the like) I could find on 1:10,00 Ordnance Survey maps across all the historic editions. "Survey" in the table above shows the survey edition dates when maps were revised. Okay, it is not a complete pond census, only an audit of ponds that appear on maps but those Victorians in the Nineteenth Century were very detailed map-makers, capturing features down to 4 metre diameter. The overall number of ponds has not changed much, but the turnover of individuals ponds has been considerable, with an conspicuous late surge led by golf courses. The general increase in recent years matches data from the UK countryside Survey and recent audits by Pond Conservation. Which should be good news, unless all those old ponds were superb wildlife hotspots compared to these new sites.

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