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Garden ponds can be excellent wildlife habitats, and can make a contribution to the protection of freshwater wildlife. Invertebrate animals such as dragonflies and water beetles, and amphibians can colonise new ponds quickly. Garden pond owners have the potential to make many original and valuable observations about the ecology of small waterbodies, which garden ponds replicate.
Garden ponds also cause problems. In particular, garden ponds can be pathways for the spread of invasive non-native plants. In the UK the non-native species Crassula helmsii and Myriophyllum aquaticum, which cause considerable practical problems in protecting freshwaters, are both escaped invasive species from garden ponds.
Ponds may be created by natural processes or by people; however, the origin of the hole in the ground makes little difference to the kind of wildlife that will be found in the pond. Much more important is whether the pond is polluted or clean, how close it is to other wetlands and its depth, particularly whether it dries out from time to time and how many fish (if any) there are.
Naturally, ponds vary more in their physical and chemical conditions from day to day, and even during the day, than other freshwaters, like rivers. People often install pumps in garden ponds to counter these natural tendencies, particularly to maintain higher levels of dissolved oxygen: although this is probably not necessary for wildlife generally, it may be essential to keep fish in a small pond. For ponds with polluted nutrient-rich tapwater added to them, filters can be used to reduce the abundance of algae.
Water supply and loss
Ponds outside of gardens are fed by four main water sources: rain, inflows (springs and streams), surface runoff, and groundwater. The wildlife value of ponds is greatly affected by the extent to which these water sources are unpolluted. Garden ponds are generally not fed by inflows or groundwater, except in the larger and rural gardens. Usually the pond will be filled by a combination of tap water, rainwater, and surface runoff – and lost to evaporation.
In soils which lack natural clay, additional water loss to drainage and permeation is prevented by a liner. Pond liners are PVC or EPDM foils that are placed between the soil of the pond bed and the water. Liners can also be made from puddled clay, and ponds on free-draining soils can even be self-sealing with fine sediments washed into the pond.
- Seasonal ponds
One can make a garden pond/ koi pond that generally ranges in size from 150 gallons to around 10,000 gallons. However, if evaporation exceeds the amount of water added, the pond may dry out during summer. This is not harmful biologically because many freshwater plants and animals (perhaps half of all species) are well adapted to periods of drought, and worldwide so-called 'temporary ponds' (ponds which usually dry out once a year) are an important natural habitat type. However, in a garden, a pond which dries out in summer may be a bit disappointing for the owner since this is the time when most people will be spending time enjoying their pond. And of course some animals, particularly fish, cannot survive periods of drought. Amphibians, on the other hand, often benefit from ponds which dry out because this removes the major predators of tadpoles and newtpoles (fish) and, provided the larvae emerge before the pond dries out, the drought presents no problems for the amphibians.
Natural ponds and pools
Ponds or swimming pools can be constructed and maintained on an organic model, sometimes called natural pools, where the water is contained by an isolating membrane or membranes, in which no chemicals or devices that disinfect or sterilize water are used, and the water is instead cleared through use of biological filters, other organisms used in water purification, and plants rooted hydroponically in the system.
The first such pools were built in the early 1980s in Austria, where they are known as Schwimmteiche. The first was built by Werner Gamerith in his private garden in the 1980s.:16 The market slowly grew, and by 2016 there were around 20,000 such pools in Europe.:19
An organization called Die Internationale Organisation für naturnahe Badegewässer sets standards for such pools.
- Kurutz, Steven (April 5, 2007). "From Europe, a No-Chlorine Backyard Pool". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
- Buege, Douglas; Uhland, Vicky (August–September 2002). "How to Build a Natural Swimming Pool". Mother Earth News.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
- Littlewood, Michael (2016). A guide to building natural swimming pools. Schiffer. ISBN 978-0764350832.
- Hirsi, Ibrahim (July 30, 2015). "North Minneapolis' Webber pool, the country's first natural public swimming pool, to hold another open house". MinnPost. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- "IOB - Wir über uns" (in German). Die Internationale Organisation für naturnahe Badegewässer. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
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