Site studies and surveys are important to establish the existing status of ponds, lakes, marshes, streams and other watercourses, and to measure changes over time. Surveys are vital for establishing the need for management work, as inappropriate management can damage habitats, species, sediment history, archaeological features and artifacts.
Continuous monitoring of watercourses is undertaken by many organisations. These include the Environment Agency and English Nature, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland). Water companies, universities, county councils, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Biological Records Centres, Wildlife Trusts and other environmental organisations may also hold databases on watercourses, canals, streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands.
The New Rivers and Wildlife Handbook (RSPB, NRA and RSNC, 1994) contains detailed information on river surveys, including morphology, river corridors, plants, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates.
The Pond Book (Pond Conservation Trust, 1999) contains outline details on pond surveys for ecological and historical value. The Pond Conservation Trust, through Pond Action, and working jointly with the Environment Agency has developed the National Pond Survey methodology. Full details are given in A guide to the methods of the National Pond Survey (Pond Action, 1998). National Pond Survey methods have also been adopted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, as described in Ponds, pools and lochans (Scottish Environment Protection Agency, 2000). The National Ponds Database is being developed by Pond Action in association with other organisations, and is accessible at www.brookes.ac.uk/pondaction.
National Pond Survey methods can be used to:
- assess the regional or national conservation value of ponds
- assess whether a pond is degraded using the PSYM technique, developed by Pond Action and the Environment Agency.
- decide pond management priorities
- establish long-term pond monitoring programmes.
Methods for surveying amphibians, and assessing the conservation value of amphibian populations, are given in the leaflet Surveying for amphibians (British Herpetological Society, 1996).
British Waterways publishes a range of resources for studying canals and other inland waterways, including information on water quality, wildlife, canal corridor studies, history and technology.