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‘Ponds Project’ hopes to create wildlife havens in Galway gardens


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

‘Ponds Project’ hopes to create wildlife havens in Galway gardens ‘Ponds Project’ hopes to create wildlife havens in Galway gardens

An old basin sunk in the ground at the corner of your back garden could become a haven for wildlife within weeks.

That’s the message of Galway City’s Biodiversity Officer, Paula Kearney, who is on a mission to encourage the creation of ponds in the city – not only as a haven for biodiversity, but also a highly effective carbon sink.

In a collaborative effort between An Taisce and the City Council, Paula says she hopes to see 100 ponds created in gardens across Galway in the coming months, and a new pond created in Merlin Woods forms part of a broader effort to display the role they can play in our environment.

“When I first started working in Galway City Council, I noted in the east of the city that there was no area of standing water. The Merlin Park stream has gone dry and while we’re working to bring that back, it will take a number of years so in the interim, we started looking at ponds,” says Paula.

“An Taisce, with the EU Life programme, were starting their ‘ponds project’, to help local authorities and local communities establish ponds.”

In recent weeks, as part of the project, a pond was dug out in the east side of the city with the support of Friends of Merlin Woods and Paula believes they will become a key learning opportunity for those hoping to follow suit at home.

“Ponds support two-thirds of our insect population and are as effective, if not more effective than trees for sequestering carbon,” she says, with recent studies showing that small ponds sequestered 20 to 30 times the amount of carbon that woodlands, grasslands and other habitats did.

“A number of insects start their lives on ponds – dragonflies, damselflies, and even midges even though they might not be that popular,” laughs Paula.

“When we were starting this, I put a pond in my own garden and it was only in when birds were coming in to wash themselves. Frogs arrived in the winter and we’ve had newts. It’s amazing how quickly wildlife arrives,” she continues.

An Taisce is running a number of schemes across the country, but the Galway one is taking it to an urban environment where sprawling gardens are less commonplace.

But creating a pond doesn’t require a huge area of land, as Paula explains.

“It can be from a bucket in the ground to a much bigger size and can just be a corner in a small garden. I understand some people might have concerns around safety, but they can also be very shallow.

“You can then observe a whole world of action in there, which studies have shown it is great for our mental health and wellbeing. You can sit in your garden with a cup of tea and see all this activity,” says Paula. “You’ll be blown away.”

Over the last 100 years, Ireland has lost 50% of its amphibian wetlands to drainage, industrial peat extraction, pollution and natural infilling – and ponds show a very simple but effective way back.

“It can be very overwhelming when we look at the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis and we tend to think, what can any one individual do? But ponds are a small thing that can really have a big impact.

“They won’t impede on your daily life or the use of your garden and as a matter of fact, they can enhance it,” says Paula.

An Taisce, in association with Galway City Council, will host a workshop in the Clayton Hotel in Ballybrit on Saturday, September 30, led by pond expert Féidhlim Harty, giving useful tips on pond creation and pond management.

This will be followed up with a visit to the new pond in Merlin Woods, which Paula says will act as a guide to those who want to follow its development.

Suitable for all ages, the workshop takes place from 10am to 12.30pm and refreshments will be provided. Good footwear and raincoats are advised.

Booking is essential and can be done online HERE.

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