Ponds for all!

Man-made mini-wetlands across Scotland provide oases for a wide range of wildlife in urban areas. To mark World Biodiversity Day, David O’ Brien from our Biodiversity team took a stroll around his nearest SuDS pond to see what he could find…


Wildlife enthusiasts will tell you that the best way to see more nature in your garden is to build a pond. But what if you don’t have your own garden?

You needn’t miss out. If you live in a house built in the last twenty years, you’re probably living near an artificial wetland built to reduce flooding risk. These wetlands have the rather unglamorous technical name of SuDS – Sustainable Drainage Systems – but they can host some amazingly glamorous wildlife, even in the heart of our biggest cities.


Marsh marigolds in a SuDS wetland, (C) David O’ Brien

A stroll around a local SuDS brought me instant happiness in the form of a sea of marsh marigolds with a soundtrack provided by the reeling whir of a grasshopper warbler, punctuated by the chirruping of house sparrows. All of this within a few hundred metres of a supermarket, petrol station and of course, hundreds of houses.


Common blue damselfly, a species often seen at SuDS ponds from late May, (C)Lorne Gill/SNH

In past years, we’ve taken local primary school children pond-dipping in the shallow water here and they’ve found an incredible variety of creatures. Indeed some SuDS can rival natural ponds in their diversity. SNH scientists have found all of our native newts, along with frogs and toads breeding in Scottish SuDS, as well as dragonfly larvae, water boatmen and even pollution-sensitive mayflies.


Northern marsh orchid in Scotland flowers mainly in June in July, (C)Lorne Gill/SNH

The other great thing about these wetlands is that they’re always changing. Soon the marsh orchids will be coming into flower, I’ll be seeing fledgling birds coming to drink, and the adult damsel and dragonflies will be hawking over the water.

I may not be able to get out into the country, but I can still enjoy nature right next to my home.



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