Wednesday, 14 December 2016

What is the Freshwater Habitats Trust?

The Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT) works to protect freshwater wildlife across the UK. Find out more in this guest post from Becca Williamson, Communications Officer with FHT. 

Adder’s-tongue Spearwort planting
Image courtesy of
Freshwater Habitats Trust
"Our focus is on small water bodies – ponds, streams, ditches – which were historically neglected as larger habitats were assumed to be of greater importance.  Our work over the last few decades has demonstrated that the smaller water bodies really do punch above their weight when it comes to their contribution to biodiversity across a landscape. 

Here are some examples of our work and how we are helping to protect freshwater plants.

Our Flagship Pond project is working to protect the best pond sites across England and Wales. In 2015, a resurvey of ponds surveyed for the National Pond Survey 25 years ago - unimpacted ponds, mostly on nature reserves or other protected land - showed how these sites have degraded and without intervention key habitats and potentially species could be lost. Many of these sites are now Flagship Ponds. 

The Flagship Pond project is supporting site managers and local community groups who are caring for these sites. We are getting surveys done, training staff and volunteers in habitat and species monitoring, putting together management plans, and preparing to carry out vital pond management. 

A Pillwort in the hand is worth two in the water!
Image courtesy of
Freshwater Habitats Trust
At Inglestone Common, Gloucestershire, this involves woodland management to allow cattle to reach the ponds. The cattle will then create the right conditions for Adder’s-tongue Spearwort and many other plants to thrive. Dozens of Adder’s-tongue Spearwort plants were raised from seed collected from the last few plants, on the brink of extinction, and planted in the ponds earlier this year. The grazing is crucial to keep the population self-sustaining.

At Skipwith Common, North Yorkshire, pond management work is planned to allow Pillwort to regenerate from spores and once again carpet the margins of ponds there. The site has great potential as a Pillwort stronghold. The semi natural habitats, free from pollution sources, support great clean water ponds but without regular disturbance or creation of new habitats, the little fern has no future there.

Three-lobed Water-crowfoot
Image courtesy of
Freshwater Habitats Trust
At Hothfield Common, Kent, the creation of new seasonal ponds will make a big difference for Three-lobed Water-crowfoot. Hothfield Common is one of the few remaining sites in England where this plant can be found. Its dependence on clean water and a habitat that is easily drained or made permanent has left it unable to find space in most of the countryside.

To get work like this done at each of the 70 Flagship Pond sites, we are looking to raise £140,000. Take a look at our website to find out more and see the appeal video.

Our PondNet project is a volunteer pond surveillance scheme. It involves monitoring pond quality and change in species distribution, surveying for uncommon species, and keeping an eye on the status of populations of key species, such as Coral Necklace, Greater Water-parsnip, Pillwort, Tubular Water-dropwort, and Starfruit. We run training events for volunteers new to wildlife recording, or those who are looking to increase their skills. In 2017 we will be focussing on surveying for species with restricted distribution, to check on their status at sites where they have been recorded previously. 

PondNet training event
Image courtesy of
Freshwater Habitats Trust
If you are interested in helping with these surveys, please get in touch with the team here. Anyone can help, regardless of experience, as free ID and survey method training will be available for each species. 

Our Million Ponds Project aims to ensure there are once again a million ponds in the UK countryside. 

In Phase 1 we worked with partners to create thousands of new clean water ponds, many designed specifically to support and increase populations of priority species such as Tassel Stonewort and Lesser Water Plantain. 

We also produced a series of factsheets and case studies on creating clean water ponds, and how to get the conditions right to enhance populations of plant such as Yellow Centaury, Coral Necklace, Pigmy Rush, Three-lobed Water-crowfoot, Small Fleabane, Lesser Water-plantain, and Brown Galingale – which now needs updating in light of what we’re learning about the role of shade and trampling by livestock at Cock Marsh Flagship Pond site! These factsheets are available free from our website, providing clear, evidence-based advice on creating ponds that really help wildlife.

We are continuing to work towards our vision of a functioning nationwide network of freshwater habitats where all threatened freshwater plants and animals have recovered and developed sustainable populations. Visit our website and sign up to our newsletter to find out more".

Many thanks to Becca for this guest blogpost and you can see my guest blogpost about BSBI on the Freshwater Habitats Trust website here. BSBI is delighted to work together with partners in the State of Nature coalition to highlight the work we are all doing and to further our mutual aims