How important is carp management for maintaining the population of rare and endangered species of water and marsh birds? We tried to answer this question during the conference “Pond management in the conditions of global climate change”, which took place on November 16-18, 2022 in Ustka.
The LIFE.VISTULA.PL project is a perfect example showing the importance of traditional carp management in ponds for the protection of bird habitats.
Why are ponds so attractive to birds?
Poland uses the largest areas of ground carp ponds in the European Union, and the land under the ponds accounts for about 1/3 of the area occupied by lakes in our country. Breeding ponds, next to dam reservoirs, are the most important freshwater habitats for birds in southern Poland. More than 140 species of birds are associated with the ponds, which is about 30% of all species recorded in the country.
Ponds are usually diversified in terms of depth, area, degree of overgrowing with rushes or the number and types of islands, which makes them extremely attractive to birds. The dates of their filling with water and emptying are also variable. Cultivation and fertilization of ponds, unheard of fish densities and their intensive feeding provide favorable living conditions for water and marsh birds.
It is in fish ponds in southern Poland that one of the highest densities of all duck species is recorded. These reservoirs are currently the key breeding grounds for the common pochard, ferruginous duck and tufted duck in the country.
The most important conclusions from the implementation of LIFE.VISTULA.PL
So far, cooperation with the managers of carp ponds in the LIFE.VISTULA.PL project and the observation of birds using the ponds leads to the following conclusions:
1. Fisheries management in carp ponds are crucial in maintaining the habitats of several dozen rare and endangered species of birds and should be considered one of the most important elements in the system of protection of water and marsh birds in southern Poland.
2. Complete abandonment of fisheries management would lead to the disappearance of the population of most bird species in Natura 2000 areas within a few years.
3. With the current management system for ponds in protected areas, it is important to reconcile interests on the line: people – fish – birds.
4. It is not possible to completely subordinate fisheries management to the protection of birds – objects of protection in Natura 2000 areas. However, it is important for birds to maintain the diversity of ponds in terms of depth, area, degree of reed overgrowth or the number and types of islands.
5. Traditional carp rearing in ponds is extremely environmentally friendly without the need to introduce additional restrictions if it is carried out in an extensive manner.
6. The intensification of fishing and the change of the use of ponds into commercial fisheries causes the depletion of bird habitats and increases anthropopressure.
7. The long-term preservation of bird habitats on fishing ponds is possible only when farms are economically self-sufficient.
8. Fragmentation of pond properties adversely affects the structure of bird habitats of entire pond complexes.
9. It is necessary to educate the society on the role of breeding ponds in the natural environment and landscape.
The conference was co-organized by the Fish Promotion Society “Pan Karp” and the Fish Market Development Association. During the debate, many important issues were raised regarding the role of fish ponds in Poland’s water management, including water retention and counteracting water shortages.