Management of wetland and pond margins

First year management

In the first year annual weed growth may be cut back to encourage the development of a good perennial ground cover. Establishment on sites prone to flooding may be patchy and may take several years to become fully colonised.

Management once established

Wet grassland which only occasionally or seasonally floods can be managed as meadow or grassland as described elsewhere (see Management of meadows and grassland).

Plant communities established in areas that are more frequently or continuously wet may benefit from a different management approach.  Vegetation associated with ponds, ditches and other open water is of particular benefit providing food and shelter to wildlife such as newts and water voles.  From a wildlife point of view ponds do not need to have large areas of open water; ponds which appear to be choked with vegetation often support the greatest diversity of plant and animal species. The habitat value is, however, enhanced if there are a variety of vegetation structures from dense tussock stands to bare and recently colonised mud.  Management of these wetland areas should therefore aim to create variation with minimum disturbance to animal populations.

Variation in structure can be achieved by cutting back and removing short sections of vegetation every 2-3 years in rotation.  In ditches, cut out sections and /or work from one bank each year.  With ponds remove vegetation as a wedge, like removing a slice of cake.  Dense stands of single species (e.g. yellow iris) may benefit from selective thinning. Vegetation removal causes the least disruption to wildlife when carried out between September and November.  On larger sites light grazing by cattle or horses in late summer can be used and is less disruptive than mechanical clearance.  Machines and heavy equipment should be used with care on wet sites to avoid damage to soil and vegetation.