How to help amphibians through the winter
Becca Williamson from the Freshwater Habitats Trust passes on her tips for looking after pond wildlife over the winter.
To help the creatures that live in and around your pond survive the cold weather it is important to have a range of wildlife-friendly areas in your garden that will provide them with shelter in the water and on land. Areas of longer grass, overgrown corners, deep leaf litter or piles of wood or stones can provide a vital refuge for many creatures. Allow submerged plants to grow throughout a large area of the pond to provide cover, release oxygen into the water, and keep the pond healthy.
For the frogs and other pond dwellers that overwinter in the water, problems arise when ice and snow covers the pond. Most pond species are accustomed to low oxygen levels, but levels drop further when oxygen can no longer diffuse into the water because of a covering of ice lasting more than a few days. Melting a hole in the ice is unlikely to make much difference – the amount of oxygen diffusing into the water is tiny and only active swimmers can make it to the surface for a gulp of air. Instead, we suggest sweeping any snow off the ice to allow light through to the submerged plants. The plants can then continue to photosynthesise and produce oxygen.
Fish usually require higher oxygen levels, especially as we often keep more fish than would naturally occur in a pond. Running a fountain or pump to keep an area open and agitate the water can help.
Read more about caring for you pond at www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk.