Pond bombshell

Linda Viandier was about to give her pond a good spring clean when she learned her ef­forts could dev­as­tate the very wildlife she wanted to pro­tect

French Property News - - Fpn Contents -

A wildlife lover nar­rowly avoids mak­ing a ter­ri­ble mis­take in her gar­den

When we bought our house in Bur­gundy in July last year, we in­her­ited an an­cient abreuvoir, a for­mer wa­ter­ing hole for an­i­mals from when the house was a hunt­ing lodge. But it was over­grown with duck­weed and, as the wa­ter was stag­nant, filthy dirty. We were sur­prised to dis­cover that it at­tracted lots of beau­ti­ful red and azure dam­sel­flies as well as ma­jes­tic blue em­peror drag­on­flies. Un­for­tu­nately, it also at­tracted my arch en­emy: mos­qui­toes.

Drain the swamp? We planned to drain the wa­ter and clear the sur­round­ing area the fol­low­ing spring and cre­ate a clean pond with lilies to aer­ate it, adding some carp to eat the mosquito lar­vae.

Thank­fully I had a chance meet­ing with con­ser­va­tion­ist Lisa Leprêtre from the Réseaux Mares de Bour­gogne, part of the So­ciété d’his­toire Na­turelle d’au­tun. She stopped us just in time, as our plans would have been dev­as­tat­ing for the very bio­di­ver­sity we were hop­ing to en­cour­age.

Emp­ty­ing the abreuvoir in spring would have de­stroyed all the lar­vae har­bour­ing there, in­clud­ing my beloved drag­on­flies, which have in­spired the name of our house, Les Li­bel­lules. What’s more, in­tro­duc­ing fish would have fur­ther threat­ened not only the dragon­fly lar­vae, but any frog, toad or newt eggs (these species all feast upon dragon­fly lar­vae also, but not on such a grand scale as carp).

Per­se­cuted pondlife

A‘ mare’ is a medium-sized pond (our abreuvoir, loosely trans­lated as ‘trough’, just about qual­i­fies), pro­vid­ing a unique en­vi­ron­ment for both aquatic and ter­res­trial plants, in­sects, and am­phib­ians. Mares are reser­voirs of bio­di­ver­sity and are the nat­u­ral breed­ing ground of many threat­ened species such as the tri­ton crêté (great crested newt) which is very sen­si­tive to en­vi­ron­men­tal changes.

Ac­cord­ing to the So­ciéte d’his­toire Na­turelle d’au­tun, it is es­ti­mated that 20% of mares have dis­ap­peared over the last 20 years from Bur­gundy alone, due to them ei­ther be­ing de­lib­er­ately filled in or aban­doned and then filled in nat­u­rally with over­growth of plants and weeds, there­fore be­com­ing so murky and lack­ing in oxy­gen that they are no longer fit for habi­ta­tion by ei­ther fauna or flora. Mul­ti­ply this fig­ure by all the ru­ral re­gions of France, and this amounts to a vast loss of habi­tat for many indige­nous plants and an­i­mals.

Pro­tected ponds Most de­part­ments in France have a so­ci­ety for the pro­tec­tion of mares and, to date, more than 30 in Bur­gundy have be­come a ‘ refuge mare’ dis­play­ing a sign alert­ing peo­ple who are pass­ing that this is a pro­tected area.

These so­ci­eties of­fer prac­ti­cal ad­vice and sup­port, and sup­ply lit­er­a­ture on how to cul­ti­vate and main­tain a thriv­ing mare, in­clud­ing what pos­i­tive ac­tions to take and what not to do, which species of plant to in­tro­duce, and which not to in­tro­duce. They pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on which plants are na­tive to the area. They can also give ad­vice on how and when to clean the mare, and the im­por­tance of not us­ing pes­ti­cides or other harm­ful sub­stances.

Mares have most of­ten been cre­ated by man, so if not cleaned and main­tained, they will fill in nat­u­rally, leav­ing nowhere for the species that have moved in to go. If you have an ex­ist­ing mare, re­mem­ber not to clean it in spring, how­ever, as this will kill any lar­vae.

A beau­ti­ful Em­peror blue dragon­fly

It is il­le­gal to take frogspawn from the wild

Linda al­most pulled the plug on her own pond

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