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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Research Students  /  Richard Walton

Richard Walton



Pond Restoration Research Group

Environmental Change Research Centre

Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street



Dr. Carl Sayer
Dr. Jan Axmacher
Prof. Helen Bennion


Professional Affiliations:

Freshwater Biological Association (FBA)
Royal Geographical Society (RGS)
British Ecological Society (BES)


Current Research

PhD Title: Understanding the impacts of scrub management on plant-pollinator relationships in a farmland pond ecosystem

During the past two decades, ecological research has shown that ponds can be significant sources of biodiversity (Biggs et al, 1994; Williams et al, 2004; Sayer et al, 2012). Ponds can be found in a wide range of landscapes and can improve regional diversity when the system is considered healthy (Hinden et al, 2005; Williams et al, 2010; Hamer & Parris, 2011; Lemmens et al, 2013; Vuorio et al, 2013). This is especially so when the ponds are found in a largely agricultural landscape where flora and fauna may be largely limited to a few species (Edvardsen & Økland, 2006; Williams et al, 2010; Sayer et al, 2012).

In the UK, farmland ponds that were historically managed in order to keep the water open for cattle or fishing were largely abandoned with the advent of agricultural intensification (Williams et al, 2004; Sayer et al, 2012). This has led to ponds succeeding toward a wooded wetland (Sayer et al, 2012). Biodiversity within these ponds is extremely poor, with few species found utilising this habitat (Williams et al, 2010). Increasing canopy cover at a pond is also expected to reduce herbaceous flowering plants growing within the marginal zone and this reduction in populations and richness may negatively impact pollinating insects which frequent these sites by reducing the length of the available foraging season (Biggs et al, 1994; Williams et al, 2008).

Whilst recent research by Sayer et al (2012) has provided evidence that restoring a farmland pond – reintroducing management of the pond – can bring the pond back to a state of high biodiversity, there is still a lack of information regarding the impacts of management on pond systems with regard to flowering macrophyte community structure, marginal plants, and pollinating insects. Through hard pruning or removal of trees and shrubs and dredging of the pond, light is reintroduced to the pond system and macrophyte seed banks are exposed, creating ideal conditions for a resurgence of aquatic plant richness (Sayer et al, 2012). Whilst shading has been linked to macrophyte loss, the exact nature of change to macrophyte assemblages has not been studied (Day et al, 1982; Brian et al, 1987; Williams et al, 2010). How macrophyte community structure responds to periodic increases and subsequent decreases in shade conditions remains unknown.

This project will also focus on the often overlooked component of pond systems: the pond margin. Herbaceous terrestrial plants often grow within the pond margin, however, they also disappear as heavy tree and shrub growth begin to dominate the banks. The impact that the loss of flowering herbaceous plants has on macroinvertebrate pollinator communities that may visit farmland ponds has not been researched and remains a significant gap in our understanding of pond ecosystems. Beyond this, the role that pond ecosystems play for pollinating insects needs to be investigated, as this may be a source for a strong conservation ‘win’ for both ponds and for declining pollinator communities in the agricultural landscape.

In order to fill these knowledge gaps, my PhD project seeks to determine the impacts that shade from canopy cover has on both macrophyte assemblages and on terrestrial plant-pollinator relationships in the pond margin. The two major hypotheses of my project are:

1)               Increasing canopy cover from woody plants along the pond margin causes a significant decline in macrophyte richness and results in simplification of community structure.

2)               Limited canopy cover over a farmland pond is beneficial for pollinating insects that may use the pond margin as a food source as the diversity of flowering plants will be increased and the length of time pollinating insects can use the pond as a foraging site will be therefore extended.


References Cited

Biggs, J., Corfield, A., Walker, D., Whitfield, M., Williams, P., 1994. New approaches to the management of ponds. British Wildlife 5, 273–287.

Brian, A., Price, P., Redwood, B., Wheeler, E., 1987. The flora of the marl-pits (ponds) in one Cheshire parish. Watsonia 16, 417–426.

Day, P., Deadman, A., Greenwood, B., Greenwood, E., 1982. A floristic appraisal of marl pits in parts of north-western England and northern Wales. Watsonia 14, 153–165.

Edvardsen, A., Okland, R.H., 2006. Variation in plant species richness in and adjacent to 64 ponds in SE Norwegian agricultural landscapes. Aquatic Botany 85, 79–91.

Hamer, A.J., Parris, K.M., 2011. Local and landscape determinants of amphibian communities in urban ponds. Ecological Applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America 21, 378–390.

Hinden, H., Oertli, B., Menetrey, N., Sager, L., Lachavanne, J., 2005. Alpine pond biodiversity: what are the related environmental variables? Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 15, 613–624.

Lemmens, P., Mergeay, J., Bie, T., Wichelen, J., Meester, L., Declerck, S., 2013. How to Maximally Support Local and Regional Biodiversity in Applied Conservation? Insights from Pond Management. PLoS One 8, 1-13.

Sayer, C., Andrews, K., Shilland, E., Edmonds, N., Edmonds‐brown, R., Patmore, I., Emson, D., Axmacher, J., 2012. The role of pond management for biodiversity conservation in an agricultural landscape. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 22, 626–638.

Vuorio, V., Heikkinen, R.K., Tikkanen, O.-P., 2013. Breeding Success of the Threatened Great Crested Newt in Boreal Forest Ponds. Annales Zoologici Fennici 50, 158–169.

Williams, P., Whitfield, M., Biggs, J., Bray, S., Fox, G., Nicolet, P., Sear, D., 2004. Comparative biodiversity of rivers, streams, ditches and ponds in an agricultural landscape in Southern England. Biological Conservation 115, 329–341.

Williams, P., Whitfield, M., Biggs, J., 2008. How can we make new ponds biodiverse? A case study monitored over 7 years. Hydrobiologia 597, 137–148.

Williams, P., Biggs, J., Crowe, A., Murphy, J., Nicolet, P., Weatherby, A., Dunbar, M., 2010. Countryside Survey: Ponds Report from 2007. Technical Report No. 7/07. (Technical Report No. 7/07). NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK.


Academic Qualifications-

2015-present   University College London

PhD Physical Geography

PhD Title: Understanding the impacts of scrub management on plant-pollinator relationships in a farmland pond ecosystem


2012-2013       University of Liverpool

MSc Environmental Science

MSc Dissertation:  Three week monitoring of methane activity at two closed landfills in the UK


2005-2007       Brigham Young University (USA)

BSc Plant Biology


Grants & Awards

The Clan Trust Student Bursary, 2016

The Mead Fund – Travel & Cross-Institutional Study Bursary, 2016

Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, Norfolk County Council, Research Materials Bursary, 2016


Work Experience

2015, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

City Research Scientist 1


2014, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Freshkills Park

Environmental Monitoring & Education Intern


Committee Participation

2016/17 Academic Year, Organiser, Physical Geography Seminar Series, UCL

2016/17 Academic Year, Graduate Student Representative, Geography Lab Committee, UCL


Teaching Experience

Teaching Experience

Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Geography 2016-present

GEOG2007, Ecological Patterns & Processes

GEOG2008, Reconstructing Past Environments

GEOG2001, The Practice of Geography

GEOGG070, Aquatic Systems: Structure & Functioning

GEOGG104, Scientific Basis for Freshwater and Coastal Conservation

GEOGG135, Biological Indicators of Environmental Change


GEOG070 - Lecture on Aquatic-Terrestrial Linkages

UCL Conservation Club - Insect Insights II "British Lepidoptera"

Physical Geography Lunchtime Seminar Series - Understanding the impacts of scrub management on plant-pollinator relationships in a farmland pond ecosystem

Conference Participation

May 2-4, 2017: 7th European Pond Conservation Network Conference, University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal

  • Presented a poster on initial results of my fieldwork on pollinator communities at ponds. My poster won the "Best Poster Presentation"prize.