‘Wildlife of a garden’ by Jennifer Owen

I was at a meeting the other day where the publication of Jennifer Owen’s ‘Wildlife of a garden – a thirty year study‘ was celebrated.

Dr Owen is widely perceived as the ‘godmother’ of wildlife gardening and it’s an interesting book to browse – though you’ll probably need to be comfortable with lists of animals and scientific names (I admit to this failing) to read it cover-to-cover.

Jennifer Owen is mainly a ‘terrestrial’ person – so the book’s not got so much to say about aquatic creatures – and with just one small pond in her garden that’s perhaps not surprising. It doesn’t look as though there’s much going on in the watery way of things.

But  impressions may be misleading because our detailed studies of Abingdon garden ponds show that, provided there is water available, aquatic creatures are a pretty typical part of the garden fauna.

For example, we’ve found in the Abingdon study a surprisingly large proportion – 30% – of all the aquatic invertebrate species seen in rivers, streams, ditches and ponds in a similar sized patch of countryside near Abingdon. And this is despite the fact that the Abingdon ponds had a total area of just 150 square metres – barely a hundredth of the area of water out in the rest of the landscape.

And the Abingdon creatures were not only the tough and commonplace – amongst them are some species that are not so widespread in the rest of the countryside, suggesting that at least some of our little garden ponds are providing refuge for creatures with more specialised habitat requirements.

At the moment the ‘good’ ponds are in the minority – but I don’t have much doubt that many more could be improved.

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