A multi-basin wildlife garden pond

A three basin pond

This is my first pond, straight after we finished it in April 2007. It’s a multi-basin design

This pond is designed to exploit one of the most basic features of freshwaters: they go up and down naturally, and shallow ponds often dry out in dry summers, or even every year. And, although it may be a bit hard to believe, many water plants and animals cope perfectly well with – or actually need – dry periods.

On the surface it looks just like any other pond – the shape’s even a bit dull.

But there’s a big difference: there are three basins within the pond: the deepest at the back, the shallowest near left and the middle depth pool, on the right. Between each basin is very shallow water – just a centimetre of two.

As the water goes down the basins dry out at different speeds: first the very shallow water between basins, then the shallow one, then the middling pool, last the deepest.

So what’s the advantage of the basins: this is the way of creating the greatest variety of habitat – not by simply having different depths of water in the one pond. However shallow the water in a pond which stays wet all year round, that shallow water habitat will always have the character of a deep pond. Its only by having a pond that can dry out sometimes that you really get a different type of habitat.

A bigger multi-basin pond in the summer when water levels are low, and the pond splits up into separate basins. In the winter its a single sheet of water.

A bigger multi-basin pond in the summer when water levels are low, and the pond splits up into separate basins. In the winter its a single sheet of water.

How do water plants and animals survive drought? Some don’t! Fish, for example, mostly don’t – its the natural way of providing a refuge from these predators. But for many plants and animals drought is no problem.

Quite a few water plants need a dry spell for their seeds to germinate, or the plants simply carry on growing on the wet sediment. Many animals survive the dry spell as eggs, for others the adult animals fly off to deeper water, or like frogs and newts migrate to (damp) land. Other animals – water snails, some beetles – shelter under damp stones or in the sediment.

And they’ve been doing it successfully for millions of years.

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