Consequences of pond management for chironomid assemblages and diversity in English farmland ponds Consequences of pond management for chironomid assemblages

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Leslie P. Ruse *
Helen M. Greaves
Carl D. Sayer
Jan C. Axmacher
(*) Corresponding Author:
Leslie P. Ruse | les.ruse@roehampton.ac.uk

Abstract

Ponds represent a large potential resource for biodiversity in agricultural areas of lowland Europe though many are lost through natural succession towards damp woodland depressions (terrestrialisation). Managing ponds back towards their former open-water state may result in dramatic increases of biodiversity, even on heavily farmed land. Here, evidence is presented of the effects of terrestrialised farmland pond restoration on chironomid assemblages. Chironomid pupal exuviae were collected from three terrestrialised ponds on intensively-farmed land in North Norfolk, Eastern England. Two of the ponds had trees, scrub and sediment removed, while the third pond remained undisturbed as a control. Pupal exuviae collection resumed after the restoration period. In addition, nine unmanaged farm ponds and two formerly restored ponds were sampled. Nearby, another five restored ponds were also sampled for chironomid pupal exuviae. Water data revealed alkalinity, conductivity and phosphorus decreased while pH and dissolved oxygen increased after pond restoration. Chironomid species diversity, similarity and species compositional change were compared pre- and post-restoration. Assessments were made of chironomid species associated with colonisation of restored ponds as well as ponds without such management. After scrub and sediment removal the earliest colonisation of the ponds was by mud-eating species with rapid colonisation traits such as parthenogenesis, multiple generations in one year and tolerance of low oxygen conditions. Subsequent plant growth due to the opening up of the canopy led to consequent improved oxygenation and habitat structure. Other chironomid species dependent on these conditions were then able to compete with the early colonisers. Restoration also made a significant improvement in the number of chironomid species, as assessed by rarefaction curves.


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