Preserving the balance of nature at GSAL Monday 27 February 2012 General News In the face of current drought warnings for much of the UK, environmental works at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) seek to maintain perfect equilibrium whatever the weather brings. Two balancing ponds, originally created to regulate ground water levels at the school’s Alwoodley Gates site, have become a haven for locally rare wetland fauna and flora. Half term work to thin bulrushes and create additional wetland areas will preserve this important habitat as well as improving the drainage to playing fields. GSAL’s Head of Science Mark Smith explains, “When the school was built and the site landscaped the balancing ponds were created to control runoff after heavy rainfall and ensure that sports fields remain playable. However, as an added bonus the ponds are now an important habitat with a wide variety of plants and animals having naturally colonised the two areas.” “Species now found in and around the ponds include a variety of dragonflies whose larvae live in the water for two years before emerging and two locally unusual plant species – lesser centaury and lesser spearwort. An occasional bird visitor is the secretive snipe, which has nested elsewhere on the school site.” “In addition the ponds are the perfect environment for common newts, so we introduced their spawn from a local source five years ago and were delighted that they become established. The works are carefully planned and timed to minimise disturbance during their hibernation.” Thanks to this rich variety of species the ponds provide an important illustration of local biodiversity that enhances the learning of scientists at all levels – both GSAL’s own students and teachers on professional development courses at the National Science Learning Centre, York University. Mark Smith is pictured with Junior School pupils Lulu Howson (left) and Olivia Courtney-Ash.