Manchester University Student help to Improve Pond Life

A group of volunteers from the University of Manchester braved the wind and rain last week to help improve the ecosystem of one of Trafford Ecology Park’s ponds as part of the Natural Neighbourhoods project.

Pond Management

Left unmanaged, ponds will slowly dry out and lose their biodiversity benefits. However by carrying out simple maintenance, the water levels can be preserved, keeping a stable habitat for the wildlife that lives there.

Therefore, Groundwork have been undertaking improvements on the main pond in the past few months to improve its ecosystem.

Last week’s volunteers from the University of Manchester undertook important pond management tasks including:

• Raking the pond bed to reduce the amount of the reeds present,
• Removing cut wood from the side of the pond,
• Digging up tree stumps, brambles, and other weeds.

One of the groups’ main objectives was to help remove a species of plant in the pond called ‘Bulrush’.

Groundwork’s Community Projects Lead, Francesca Sullivan commented,

“Bulrush isn’t an invasive species- it just grows a lot, it gets over grown and the leaves fill the bottom of the pond – making it shallower and more likely to dry out. We remove some of it every few years as general maintenance of the pond to ensure the depth stays constant.”

The volunteers also helped remove trees that had seeded themselves on the banks of the pond. Although the trees themselves are native to the area, seeding in the lake means they use up excess pond water, which is needed for the underwater ecosystem.

The volunteers also cleared out reeds to help with the pond’s dipping levels. Pond dipping is a fun and educational activity undertaken by children at the park to learn more about the biodiversity of the pond. The platforms around the pond are used to dip nets into and to observe what animal and plant life is found in there.

The level of the water needs to be deep enough to fully submerge a net, ensuring there is a quality environment for water creatures to live in.

A Newt Home

Whilst working with her forest school group, Suzanne Walton, Senior Community Nature Lead at Groundwork, has recently uncovered seven newts nestled underneath a tarpaulin right by the pond!

She informed us that during the months of October to February newts are known to take this time to hibernate on land. They will return to their new and improved pond land from March onwards.

The team ensured the newts were undisturbed during the improvement works and the Groundwork team hope to build a more natural, and safe place for them to hibernate in next winter.

The Volunteers

A large portion of the volunteers who helped on this project were made up of students from the University of Manchester. Whilst those spoken to didn’t have a lot of experience in this field, their enthusiasm, and their eagerness to help create a greener environment spoke volumes.

One volunteer we spoke to explained they were taking part in the Stellify Award, which is the University of Manchester’s most prestigious extracurricular award for undergraduates and involves 25 hours of volunteering, the completion of two ethical grand challenges and requires the student to take up two leadership roles.

All the volunteers and accompanying staff did an amazing job helping clear out the pond, despite the cold and wet conditions. And to top it off there was only one slip into the pond!

We look forward to seeing the pond’s wildlife flourish thanks to the help of these amazing volunteers, thank you.