History of social and economic relevance
of ponds to stakeholders

The implementation of management plans can only be successful if they are supported by the stakeholders. A well-quantified knowledge of the perception of stakeholders is necessary to identify and avoid possible conflicts of interest, to develop financial compensation measures, and to find out how public awareness can best be raised and stakeholder commitment can be strengthened. PONDSCAPE will therefore engage in an in-depth socio-economic analysis of the perception of pond value and pond conservation. Pond habitats were much more abundant in Europe in previous centuries because they were important sources for drinking water for cattle, irrigation, households and safety against fires. Many ponds disappeared in the second half of the twentieth century. Understanding how stakeholders value the benefits and risks associated with pond use may provide suggestions for strategies on how to boost their interest in the creation, management and maintenance of ponds.

We have chosen to use a subjective appraisal based on perception of stakeholders, rather than put a monetary value on the habitats and their biota. The latter approach was advocated at the last Biodiversitas Open Science Conference (November 2005, Oaxaca, Mexico) by Charles Perrings (“Valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services after the Millenium Ecosystem Asessment”), but was at the same conference countered by Caroline Sullivan (“Confronting the reality of using biodiversity: is Nature a free good?”) who correctly argued that biodiversity and ecosystem values should be seen as capital, not as current expenditure. Sullivan’s approach is much more in line with sustainability of biodiversity, hence this view is here adopted by us.

PONDSCAPE will first determine how ponds have gained or lost their objective value in a more or less recent history. This baseline study will analyse historical records in selected local communities and will study other countries’ policies for ponds valuation.

Perceptions of stakeholders (farmers, nature conservation agencies, local authorities, local people) concerning several aspects of farm land ponds will be analysed through semi-directive interviews, probing the viewpoints of stakeholders about the socio-economic characteristics of ponds: costs versus revenues, importance in the farm economy and beyond, management practices and issues, the opportunity of financial compensations.

Natural ponds are often perceived by cattle and sheep breeders as a potential source of pathogenic agents, the main one being Fasciola hepatica, the common liver fluke. This perception could represent a major obstacle to the management strategies of existing ponds and the creation of new ones. The MANSCAPE project demonstrated that F. hepatica was present in a very limited number of ponds only. On the other hand, unusual snail vectors were identified and the potential role of wild life as final host was suggested. PONDSCAPE will investigate incidence of infection in cattle in relation to watering system used by farmers (ponds or tap water).