Biodiversity protection: how useful are man-made water bodies?

Posted on October 1, 2014

Man-made water bodies include agricultural, industrial and urban ponds, reservoirs, gravel pits, rice fields, irrigation and transport canals, drainage ditches and stormwater retention basins. There’s increasing recognition of the role that such water bodies can play in helping to maintain freshwater biodiversity. A recent review of man-made aquatic refuges concluded that biodiversity was highest in agricultural ponds, drainage ditches and transport canals, and lowest in irrigation infrastructure. Biodiversity is higher in the presence of natural substrates and aquatic plants. Ways to increase the ecological value of artificial refuges include making banks less steep to encourage the growth of water plants, minimising the clearing of sediment from irrigation canals, and in dry areas, diverting water from irrigation weirs to mimic floodplain inundation. Research is needed on the extent to which the biodiversity of artificial refuges depends on their connections with more natural habitats.

Reference: Chester, E.T. & Robson, B.J. 2013. Anthropogenic refuges for freshwater biodiversity: their ecological characteristics and management. Biological Conservation 166, 64–75.