Plantwatch: restored ghost ponds bring seeds back to life

Seeds preserved for decades can be revived and the plants thrive again along with aquatic animals

Ponds were once widespread on farms and rich in aquatic plants and wildlife, but long ago many were drained, filled in for intensive farming and became lost and forgotten. But these ghost ponds can be restored and the seeds of plants buried in old pond sediment can be revived after lying dormant for decades or even a century buried under fields of crops.

Clues to these ghost ponds can sometimes be revealed as damp depressions on the ground, poor crop growth or from old maps. Work by University College London (UCL) showed the ponds can be resurrected by excavating them to reveal the original pond bed, then allowing rainwater or groundwater to refill them. Once exposed to light and oxygen, seeds preserved in old sediments can germinate, and in less than a year the plant life thrives again, along with aquatic animals.

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