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University College London (UCL)’s Pond Restoration Research Group (PRRG) identified the actions necessary to restore pond biodiversity in UK lowland farmland and initiated the multi-partner Norfolk Ponds Project.



Since the 1950s, many UK farmland ponds have been deliberately in-filled to reclaim land, creating so-called “ghost ponds”. At the same time, a reduction in traditional pond management, involving tree and sediment removal, has resulted in remaining UK farmland ponds becoming increasingly overgrown and shaded by trees. 



The PRRG was formed to provide a scientific evidence base to inform UK pond conservation and restoration practices. Ghost ponds were re-excavated and field surveys found them to support abundant and diverse aquatic plant communities after just six months.



The Norfolk Ponds Project (NPP) was established as a partnership between UCL, local farmers, Norfolk County Council, Natural England, Anglian Water, Norfolk Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), and five NGOs.

NPP has led to and informed pond restoration work in Norfolk at around 200 sites, as well as more widely in Gloucestershire, Lancashire, and Suffolk.

A year-round study of farmland bird use of recently restored ponds showed bird abundance and species richness, as well as foraging and parental behaviour, to be significantly higher at restored ponds.

The research has also informed the strategic priorities of the National Trust’s ‘Riverlands’ catchment conservation project. 


More information

Institution: University College London

Researchers: Professor Carl Sayer, Professor Jan Axmacher, Professor Helen Bennion

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Restoring farmland ponds. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>