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Urban ponds as an aquatic biodiversity resource in modified landscapes

Hill, Matthew J.; Biggs, Jeremy; Thornhill, Ian; Briers, Robert A.; Gledhill, David G.; White, James C.; Wood, Paul J.; Hassall, Christopher


Matthew J. Hill

Jeremy Biggs

Ian Thornhill

David G. Gledhill

James C. White

Paul J. Wood

Christopher Hassall


Urbanization is a global process contributing to the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats. Many studies have focused on the biological response of terrestrial taxa and habitats to urbanization. However, little is known regarding the consequences of urbanization on freshwater habitats, especially small lentic systems. In this study we examined aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity (family and species level) and variation in community composition between 240 urban and 784 non-urban ponds distributed across the UK. Contrary to predictions, urban ponds supported similar numbers of invertebrate species and families compared to non-urban ponds. Similar gamma diversity was found between the two groups at a family level, and while at a species level gamma diversity was higher in non-urban ponds, this difference was not statistically significant. The biological communities of urban ponds were markedly different to those of non-urban ponds and the variability in urban pond community composition was greater than that in non-urban ponds, contrary to previous work showing homogenisation of communities in urban areas. Positive spatial autocorrelation was recorded for urban and non-urban ponds at 0-50 km (distance between pond study sites) and negative spatial autocorrelation was observed at 100-150 km, and was stronger in urban ponds in both cases. Ponds do not follow the same ecological patterns as terrestrial and lotic habitats (reduced taxonomic richness) in urban environments; in contrast they support high taxonomic richness and contribute significantly to regional faunal diversity. Individual cities are complex structural mosaics which evolve over long periods of time and are managed in diverse ways, promoting the development of a wide-range of environmental conditions and habitat niches in urban ponds which can promote greater heterogeneity between pond communities at larger scales. Ponds provide an opportunity for managers and environmental regulators to conserve and enhance freshwater biodiversity in urbanized landscapes whilst also facilitating key ecosystem services including storm water storage and water treatment.


Hill, M. J., Biggs, J., Thornhill, I., Briers, R. A., Gledhill, D. G., White, J. C., …Hassall, C. (2017). Urban ponds as an aquatic biodiversity resource in modified landscapes. Global Change Biology, 23(3), 986-999.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 6, 2016
Online Publication Date Aug 1, 2016
Publication Date Feb 17, 2017
Deposit Date Jun 8, 2016
Publicly Available Date Aug 2, 2017
Journal Global Change Biology
Print ISSN 1354-1013
Electronic ISSN 1365-2486
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 3
Pages 986-999
Keywords Urban; city; ecology; freshwater; aquatic; biodiversity; biotic homogenisation; conservation; invertebrate;
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Urban ponds as an aquatic biodiversity resource in modified landscapes (<nobr>523 Kb</nobr>)

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Urban ponds as an aquatic biodiversity resource in modified landscapes (<nobr>471 Kb</nobr>)

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