Urban ponds can contain as many species as ponds outside of cities

UrbanPondBackground:  The management of water in urban areas can be a problem, because rainfall rapidly runs off impervious surfaces like pavements and roads. This means the water quickly enters rivers and streams, which then flood. City managers reduce the rate at which water enters rivers using stormwater management facilities, which often include ponds to hold back the stormwater. These ponds are usually managed just for water retention, but they could potentially form a very useful habitat for aquatic plants and animals in cities.

What we did: We looked at 20 of these stormwater management ponds (SMPs) to see how many animals and plants were using them. We also compared those 20 ponds against 10 other ponds that were not used for stormwater management, but were found in roughly the same area. We showed that the water chemistry in the SMPs was often high in salt, and that the amount of salt in the ponds was related to the amount of urban land cover (which makes sense: much of the salt would have been road salt washed in during snow melt). However, despite some differences in water chemistry there were no significant differences between the SMPs and the other ponds in the diversity of animals. We conclude that it is not the management, per se, that affects the ponds, but the landscape within which they are found.

Importance: Management of particular habitats frequently has to prioritise one function over another. Stormwater management is a major concern in many areas, and so there may not be much willingness to detract from the role of ponds in managing run-off in order to benefit biodiversity. We showed that this may not be necessary: if the ponds are in a relatively low-intensity urban area then they may contain high biodiversity regardless of management.

This is part of a series of short lay summaries that describe the technical publications I have authored.  This paper, entitled “Stormwater ponds can contain comparable biodiversity to unmanaged wetlands in urban areas”, was published in the journal Hydrobiologia in 2014. You can find this paper at the publisher’s website.

Image credit: tpsdave, http://bit.ly/1rb1IKi, Public Domain.

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Climate change denial: my experience with the media

This is my third post relating to a project that looked at climate change denial as it was being taught in a Canadian university (see here for background, and here for response to some criticism).  We were expecting the skeptical community to pick it up, and the report was written mostly for that audience.  What we were not expecting was international media coverage and a few dozen blog posts.  Here, I will briefly reflect on what the media contact was like.

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Climate change denial: a response to some criticism

This is my second post on the climate change project (see my earlier piece on the background to the story).  In this post I’ll talk briefly about some of the negative response that was raised to the project, primarily by the researcher who developed the course, Tim Patterson.  It is worth noting that the course is being taught again in January 2013.  I’ll follow this up with posts on (i) experiences with the media, and (ii) advice for skeptical campaigns in general.

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Climate change denial: my part in its downfall

In March 2012 I was involved with a project that sought to make public some poor science that was being taught at a Canadian university.  I have been busy with other things since then (like getting a job…) but now I find myself with a few minutes to reflect on the experience.  I have a tendency to write long posts which I’m sure nobody ever reads, so I’m going to write three short posts on this topic.  In this post I’ll talk briefly about some of the negative response that was raised to the project, primarily by the researcher who developed the course, Tim Patterson.  It is worth noting that the course is being taught again in January 2013.  I’ll follow this up with posts on (i) a response to some criticisms, (ii) experiences with the media, and (iii) advice for skeptical campaigns in general.

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Hume, the self, and morals

I was fortunate to attend a fascinating talk a few weeks ago, hosted by Centre for Inquiry Ottawa and given by Professor Gordon Davis, the chair of the Philosophy Department at Carleton University. The talk was intended to celebrate the contributions of David Hume to science, skepticism and secularism during the year that marked the 30oth anniversary of his birth. Prof Davis gave a really fascinating, off-the-top-of-his-head summary of what he felt were the most important and most influential (not necessarily the same thing) contributions that Hume made. The entire talk was informative, especially for someone as philosophically illiterate as myself.
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