Biodiversity and pond age

Because of the high natural values of pond ecosystems, their low maintenance costs and small surface area, the creation of new ponds by governmental and non-governmental organizations is a tangible habitat restoration measure that has become increasingly popular in Belgium (Louette & De Meester 2005) and elsewhere in Europe (Davies et al. 2004, S√łndergaard et al. 2005). The creation of new ponds provides rare opportunities to study the dynamics of colonization and succession (Louette & De Meester 2005, Louette et al., in press). Based on the monitoring of newly created ponds in the MANSCAPE project, we now have better insight into the rate of colonization (e.g. Louette & De Meester 2005). Owing to the fact that this monitoring only continued for the first three years, however, we were unable to study colonisation by macrophyte vegetation. It is likely that a major phase of community succession is linked to the establishment in young ponds of submerged and emerging macrophyte vegetations. In the proposed project, we will specifically address this issue by comparing community composition of sets of ponds that vary in age. Such analyses will also allow to determine to what extent the staggered creation of new ponds in a regional setting may contribute to high regional diversity, and thus will allow the design of more efficient strategies for the creation and protection of ponds.