‘Cities for a sustainable future’ Australia (2009)

Thornhill, I., Ledger, M., Batty, L., Friberg, N.  The urban pond and threats to environmental and human health.  Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference ‘Cities for a sustainable future’, Universities of Melbourne and Queensland, Australia, November 2009


In recent years there has been an increased interest in small lentic (still water) water systems (Oertli et al. 2009). Reasons for this include their significant contribution to regional diversity (Williams et al. 2004, Davies et al. 2008, Ruggiero et al. 2008), including the presence of rare species (Scheffer et al. 2006), and their use as model systems (De Meester et al. 2005). Interest has also risen because pond environments are often neglected habitats (De Meester et al. 2005) or are filled in by natural or artificial processes (Williams et al. 1998).

Ponds are defined as standing water bodies up to 2ha in size holding water for at least 4 months of the year (Biggs et al. 1998). To date the majority of studies have focussed upon ponds within rural and agricultural landscapes. By contrast, ponds within urban areas are poorly understood, with only a few studies to date which begin to explore the links between their biodiversity and environment, e.g. Birch and McCaskie 1999, Stoianov et al. 2000, Wood and Barker 2000, Gledhill et al. 2008, Vermonden et al. 2009.

Two overarching questions are posed during this study, these are:

1. Which factors, by studying a range of local and spatial variables, have the greatest influence upon
environmental health (expressed as biodiversity), within urban ponds?
2. What threats are posed to human health by urban ponds?


Proceedings (A-F) (G-Z)


Biggs, J., Fox, G., Nicolet, P., Walker, D., Whitfield, M. and Williams, P. (1998). A guide to the methods of the National Pond Survey. Oxford, Pond Action.

Birch, S. and McCaskie, J. (1999). “Shallow urban lakes: a challenge for lake management.” Hydrobiologia 395: 365-377.

Davies, B., Biggs, J., Williams, P., Whitfield, M., Nicolet, P., Sear, D., Bray, S. and Maund, S. (2008). “Comparative biodiversity of aquatic habitats in the European agricultural landscape.” Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 125(1-4): 1-8.

De Meester, L., Declerck, S., Stoks, R., Louette, G., Van de Meutter, F., De Bie, T., Michels, E. and Brendonck, L. (2005). “Ponds and pools as model systems in conservation biology, ecology and evolutionary biology.” Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 15(6): 715-725.

Oertli, B., Cereghino, R., Hull, A. and Miracle, R. (2009). “Pond conservation: from science to practice.” Hydrobiologia 634(1): 1-9.

Ruggiero, A., Cereghino, R., Figuerola, J., Marty, P. and Angelibert, S. (2008). “Farm ponds make a contribution to the biodiversity of aquatic insects in a French agricultural landscape.” Comptes Rendus Biologies 331(4): 298-308.

Scheffer, M., van Geest, G. J., Zimmer, K., Jeppesen, E., Sondergaard, M., Butler, M. G., Hanson, M. A., Declerck, S. and De Meester, L. (2006). “Small habitat size and isolation can promote species richness: second-order effects on biodiversity in shallow lakes and ponds.” Oikos 112(1): 227-231.

Stoianov, I., Chapra, S. and Maksimovic, C. (2000). “A framework linking urban park land use with pond water quality.” Urban Water 2: 47 – 62.

Vermonden, K., Leuven, R., van der Velde, G., van Katwijk, M. M., Roelofs, J. G. M. and Hendriks, A. J. (2009). “Urban drainage systems: An undervalued habitat for aquatic macroinvertebrates.” Biological Conservation 142(5): 1105-1115.

Williams, P., Whitfield, M., Biggs, J., Bray, S., Fox, G., Nicolet, P. and Sear, D. (2004). “Comparative biodiversity of rivers, streams, ditches and ponds in an agricultural landscape in Southern England.” Biological Conservation 115(2): 329-341.

Williams, P. J., Biggs, J., Barr, C. J., Cummins, C. P., Gillespie, M. K., Rich, T. C. G., Baker, A., Baker, J., Beesley, J. and Corfield, A., et al (1998). Lowland Pond Survey 1996, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions: London.

Wood, P. J. and Barker, S. (2000). “Old industrial mill ponds: a neglected ecological resource.” Applied Geography 20(1): 65-81.