SCIENTISTS have discovered a new species living in a Dorset pond.

The microscopic organisms, invisible to the naked eye, were discovered at East Stoke Fen nature reserve near Wool.

It came after reserve managers Dorset Wildlife Trust teamed up with scientists from the Queen Mary University of London for an initiative called the Wet Fens Project to study pond life.

The reserve’s reed fen on the floodplain of the River Frome is a rare and declining habitat.

DWT’s Pond Project Co-ordinator Dr Rachel Janes said: “It is very exciting to learn about these incredible animals on our reserve, thanks to the work of the scientific team. “The Wet Fens Project will help to protect them for the future, alongside the more visible aquatic wildlife.”

East Stoke Fen is managed by DWT for landowners and project partners the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA).

It has come under the microscope of scientists from Queen Mary University of London, based at the FBA’s River Laboratory at East Stoke.

They have already found more than 30 species of invertebrates smaller than half a millimetre – so called meiofauna – and more than 100 single-celled species, or ciliates, in less than two months.

The Wet Fens Project has been launched to study ‘cryptic biodiversity’ – biodiversity invisible to the naked eye – and raise awareness so that it can be protected in pond and fen management.

It has been funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Dr Genoveva Esteban of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences said: “Cryptic biodiversity helps natural ecosystems to bounce back in response to environmental change.

“The Wet Fens Project in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Freshwater Biological Association is pioneer work in the UK, to link research with conservation practice with the aim of incorporating small organisms into wetland conservation management. “Local biodiversity conservation will become all-embracing by covering the full range of aquatic organisms that contribute to the proper functioning of an ecosystem.”