News from the New Forest

Finding clean water in the traditionally managed landscapes of the New Forest

Pristine_Headwater

This summer we have been working with the New Forest National Park Authority and other stakeholders to investigate ways to preserve, protect and enhance the condition of rivers and ponds in the New Forest.

After gathering basic water chemistry data from around 100 sites in each river catchment, we now have a clear picture of where the pristine freshwater habitats are located. These clean water habitats are free from degrading pollution caused by diffuse pollution from farmland and run-off from roads, towns and sewage works – and support some of the UKs rarest plants and animals.

In the headwater streams and ponds in parts of the New Forest which have not been developed and which are dominated by traditionally managed semi-natural landscapes, such as heathland and woodland, the levels of phosphates are nitrates (the main polluting nutrients) were almost undetectable. In the presence of even very low levels of development or agricultural activity, levels of these nutrients were 5 times higher than the background levels and up to 15 times higher in degraded landscapes. However, ponds in pockets of undegraded habitat, adjacent to the main stream channel, even in degraded landscapes were found to support clean water.

This detailed information will allow us to promote and protect the best areas for freshwater wildlife and identify sites where we can reduce the impacts of pollution. In areas where we can’t reduce pollution we can provide habitats for freshwater wildlife by creating new clean water ponds.