Pond life: facts about pond habitats, plants and animals

Large ramshorn snails (Planorbarius corneus) eat algae, scratching it off rocks with a tongue that has sunken teeth. The red tint of their shell is caused by hemoglobin – the same substance that colors our blood.

© Stuart Jackson Carter

Many species of aquatic plants provide micro-habitats for invertebrates, amphibians, birds and mammals. For example, marginal plants such as reeds, rushes, yellow flag iris, and water mint provide shelter for amphibians. Floating plants such as water lilies provide places for damselflies to lay their eggs. Submerged aquatic plants such as hornwort and water starwort provide food and shelter for water snails.

The history of ponds: how does this habitat form and change over time?

Ponds existed long before humans, so how did they come about naturally?

In the past, without human influence (but perhaps with the help of a beaver or other ecosystem engineer), rivers rarely stayed on the same course for long. Instead, they meandered, inundated, and left pools, changing their route.

Geological features (such as pits or pits in rocks or soils that can hold water) can create ponds, as can the movement of glaciers. They are also part of the landscapes of peat bogs and marshes.

Humans have also created many ponds throughout history, especially when raising livestock in areas that do not naturally collect water, such as on limestone hills – these are dew ponds. Other man-made ponds include defensive moats, fish ponds, and mill ponds. They can also form where clay, sand, and gravel are mined for use as construction and road surfacing materials.