Freshwater Biodiversity in the Irish Agricultural Landscape: The Significance of Ponds

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Resource or Project Abstract

This study shows that farmland ponds contribute substantially to the maintenance of freshwater biodiversity in Ireland. A large number of water beetle and plant species were recorded from 54 farmland ponds. Of the 76 beetle species collected from the study ponds and representing over 30% of the Irish water beetle fauna, 4 species are included in the Red List of Irish Water Beetles. It was confirmed that grazing intensity and nutrient enrichment have a detrimental effect on the diversity of plant and beetle assemblages, and that the presence of a buffer zone of marginal vegetation as well as that of a fence system improved the overall ecological quality of ponds. Temporary ponds were significantly less diverse than permanent ponds, but they may contribute to maintaining water beetle diversity at the landscape level by improving connectivity between freshwater systems. The diversity of the study ponds was only moderately correlated with pond surface area, indicating that the maintenance or the creation of small ponds characterized by a shallow zone may play a central role in the conservation of biodiversity. Despite not being quantified, a general decrease in the number of farmland ponds was observed as a consequence of the intensification of agricultural practices and housing developments. The conservation freshwater biodiversity in Ireland requires extensive information on the distribution of ponds and on their biodiversity value and ecological quality as well as the development of long-term monitoring programmes aimed at evaluating changes in biodiversity associated with anthropogenic activities, including the intensification of agricultural practices, urbanization, climate change and the introduction of invasive alien species. In this study, a number of research needs were highlighted. In particular, an urgent need for the development of environmental policies specifically aimed at protecting freshwater biodiversity and ponds was identified. Since small freshwater ecosystems, even those that are temporary, are important in supporting uncommon species and in maintaining habitat connectivity, specific legislations should be developed to protect these systems

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Margherita Gioria
University College Dublin (UCD)
PI and Research Fellow
School of Agriculture, Food Science, and Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture and Food Science Centre, University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin 4, Ireland
Telephone: +353 1 716 7740
e-mail: margheritagioria@yahoo.com

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Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_80_Gioria_Ponds_prn.pdf  (1.95 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_80_Gioria_Ponds_web.pdf  (1.44 Mb)

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Author(s)Gioria, M.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationFreshwater Biodiversity in the Irish Agricultural Landscape: The Significance of Ponds
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL http://erc.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=f772e614-46de-102f-8c70-b53a025bc1b8
Unique Identifierf772e614-46de-102f-8c70-b53a025bc1b8
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2017-08-24

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Gioria, M.   "Freshwater Biodiversity in the Irish Agricultural Landscape: The Significance of Ponds". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland http://erc.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=f772e614-46de-102f-8c70-b53a025bc1b8 (Last Accessed: 2017-08-24)

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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/display?isoID=238
Resource KeywordsBiodiversity of Aquatic Coleoptera in the Irish Farmed Landscape. The Significance of Ponds
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2007-FS-B-14-M5
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeBiodiversity
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Public-Open
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Monday 1st January 2007 (01-01-2007)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 1st January 2007 (01-01-2007)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 1st December 2010 (01-12-2010)
Published on SAFERThursday 13th October 2011 (13-10-2011)
Date of Last EditThursday 13th October 2011 at 12:28:03 (13-10-2011)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 13th October 2011 at 12:27:32 (13-10-2011)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
A total of 67 wetland plant species (Table 1.3.1), grouped into 25 plant community types (Table 1.3.2), was recorded from the 54 study ponds, with 42 species classified as emergent, 7 as floating-leaved, and 18 as submerged. Mean values for each pond category are presented in Table 1.3.3. On average, 5.4 plant species ( 2.5 SD) were recorded in temporary ponds, compared to 11.1 ( 6.3 SD) found in permanent ones. Potamogeton natans L. was the pondweed most frequently recorded in permanent ponds (37 ponds), while the bulrush Typha latifolia L. formed dominant communities in the emergent vegetation of 19 permanent ponds. The findings presented in this report refers to data collected from 54 ponds located in two intensively farmed regions in Ireland (R1, Wexford, Co. Wexford, 25 ponds: centroid: 5223'N, 623W, June?July 2008; R2, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, 29 ponds: 5333'N, 725'W, June?July 2009). Altitude ranges from 24 to 66 masl in R1 and from 105 to 125 masl in R2. Mean monthly rainfall during the sampling period was 70.2?102 mm in R1 and 86.6?97.2 mm in R2 (Met Eireann, 2009), while average daily temperature ranged between 10.5 and 13.2C in R1 and 14.4 and 15.1C in R2. Mean monthly soil temperature for the same period was 16.6?18.3C in R1 and 17.7?17.9C in R2. Ponds were classified according to permanency into: 1) temporary (T, annual wet/dry phases), and 2) permanent (P), and according to the grazing intensity into 1) ungrazed (U = ponds surrounded by either arable land or by the presence of a buffer zone, 2) fenced (Fe = ponds surrounded by an electric fence that prevented direct access of livestock to the ponds, and 3) grazed (G) = ponds heavily used by cattle. Pond dominant substratum was classified into: 1) clay/mud (C) and 2) gravel (Gv).A total of 67 wetland plant species (Table 1.3.1), grouped into 25 plant community types (Table 1.3.2), was recorded from the 54 study ponds, with 42 species classified as emergent, 7 as floating-leaved, and 18 as submerged. Mean values for each pond category are presented in Table 1.3.3. On average, 5.4 plant species ( 2.5 SD) were recorded in temporary ponds, compared to 11.1 ( 6.3 SD) found in permanent ones. Potamogeton natans L. was the pondweed most frequently recorded in permanent ponds (37 ponds), while the bulrush Typha latifolia L. formed dominant communities in the emergent vegetation of 19 permanent ponds.

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
This study had three major aims: 1) to improve our understanding of the ecology of ponds and of the potential conservation value of ponds in the Irish agricultural landscape; 2) to develop an analytical framework that allows the identification of the main drivers of pond biodiversity; and 3) to develop an analytical protocol that allows the identification of surrogate taxa for biodiversity that can be used to make rapid or preliminary pond biodiversity assessments. Since a rigorous characterization of the impact of environmental and management variables on pond biodiversity is critical for developing conservation and management strategies aimed at maximizing the biodiversity value of these ecosystems, a range of novel and traditional analytical procedures was used here to identify the factors that best explain and predict patterns in pond biodiversity. This information is urgently needed to halt the decline of freshwater biodiversity in Ireland.
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