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PONDERFUL is launched: pond ecosystems for resilient landscapes in a changing climate

June 4, 2021
The new PONDERFUL project aims to champion and support the value of pond ecosystems. Image: PONDERFUL

Next week marks the launch of the new PONDERFUL project. The EU Horizon 2020 funded project will explore the role of ponds in protecting freshwater biodiversity, delivering ecosystem services, and helping mitigate climate change impacts.

Ponds are increasingly recognised as vital habitats for freshwater biodiversity, and important biogeochemical hotspots. As a result, they are responsible for providing a range of vital ecosystem services. However, ponds and other small freshwaters have long been overlooked in aquatic research.

This means that they are largely under-valued in environmental management and policy. In Europe, for example, the Water Framework Directive almost completely ignores ponds in its freshwater policy guidance.

“PONDERFUL is the largest EU-funded project to date on the role of ponds in protecting biodiversity and delivering ecosystem services, specifically to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change,” says Professor Sandra Brucet, who leads the PONDERFUL project.

”We expect to create unique new datasets linking freshwater biodiversity to the delivery of ecosystem services, to help us give better advice to land and water managers working to protect freshwater biodiversity and deliver vital ecosystem services,” continues Professor Brucet. “This fundamental new data will particularly help us better define the relationship between aquatic biodiversity and the production of greenhouse gases, a major concern in the management of aquatic habitats.”

Ponds have long been overlooked in scientific research and undervalued in environmental policy. Image: PONDERFUL

The PONDERFUL project involves 18 partners from 11 states – including Uruguay in South America – forming what is likely to be the largest-ever pond research project. The project is designed to support IPBES and other biodiversity strategies and conventions to better protect freshwater biodiversity, which, as this blog has documented, is a severely threatened component of global biodiversity.

“We’ve brought together a strong international team of aquatic ecologists, geochemists, modellers, landscape conservationists and social scientists, and will collaborate closely with relevant stakeholders,” says Professor Brucet. “This will help provide new guidance to policy makers and practitioners to help them maximise the enormous practical benefits to be gained from working with ponds.”

Ponds are known to be freshwater hotspots, but new research shows they can help landscape-wide recovery too. Many of the existing pond ecosystem studies have taken place in Europe, and there is a significant need for additional research, both across the continent and globally.

“We think PONDERFUL could create a step change in interest amongst both researchers and practitioners in the role of these small, but critical, habitats,” says Dr Jeremy Biggs, from the UK Freshwater Habitats Trust, which has championed the importance of ponds for 30 years. “There may be as many as 3 billion ponds on the planet, and their importance is out of all proportion to their size. Although often regarded as ‘the humble pond’, we regard them as frankly miraculous, hence our adoption of the neat acronym ‘PONDERFUL!’”

PONDERFUL will bring together researchers both from across Europe, and globally. Image: PONDERFUL

The PONDERFUL online launch will mark the start of collaborations between over 500 researchers and practitioners from 39 countries in Europe. The launch, which will introduce the value and importance of pond ecosystems, will also promote the Ramsar Convention’s 2018 Resolution XIII.21 on the ‘conservation and management of small wetlands’.

“In the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, with the protection, creation and management of ponds we have perhaps the most achievable, deliverable and impactful single water management programme we find to protect freshwater biodiversity,” says Dr Biggs. “We just need to make people aware of the enormous benefits to be associated with these ancient, natural and rich freshwater ecosystems.”

The PONDERFUL online launch takes place from 1500hrs (CEST) on Thursday 10th June 2021. Attendance is free, sign up here.

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