Letter to Natural Capital Committee on small waters - Freshwater Habitats Trust

Whitchurch Pond (image: Jeff-Buck)
Whitchurch Pond (image: Jeff-Buck)

Freshwater Habitats Trust with a group of the UK’s top freshwater scientists has today written to the Natural Capital Committee to call for urgent action on small waters.

Read the letter here. The last 20 years has seen a revolution in scientific opinion about which freshwater habitats are the most important for biodiversity. Today 20 of the UK’s most eminent freshwater scientists have written to Dieter Helm (Independent Chair of the government’s Natural Capital Committee), to call for urgent action to protect England’s smallest freshwater habitats: ponds, ditches, upland waters and headwater streams.

Traditionally, it was assumed that large habitats – rivers and lakes – were key. Recent science has turned this idea on its head: small sites have proved to be critical biodiversity hotspots and a vital refuge for rare wetland plants and animals.

The concern raised by the scientists is that policy and legislation have not yet caught up with the science: small sites are largely omitted from monitoring programmes and there is little focus on, or funding for, their restoration and creation.

This is both a problem and a missed opportunity.

There is worrying evidence that biodiversity in small sites may be declining faster than in larger waters caused by a mixture of pollution and poor management. Since tiny ponds and streams are often the only freshwater habitats in countryside landscapes, there is concern that their decline will lead to unprecedented loss of freshwater biodiversity on a landscape scale.

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