The UK’s freshwater wetlands and waterways range from small ponds and trickling streams to gushing rivers and massive reservoirs. From the River Severn to the Norfolk Broads, the Scottish lochs to the ponds of our back gardens, with such a variety of habitats, it’s no wonder that these areas support a diverse range of plants and animals.
A wealth of opportunity
Rivers and streams provide wildlife with ‘corridors’ which they can use to move between fragmented habitats. Internationally important chalk streams support endangered species such as bullhead, southern mayfly and white-clawed crayfish, while extensive, yellow-brown reedbeds created by stands of common reed are important habitats for birds including threatened species such as bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.
Our wetlands and waterways support many species of fish including brown trout, eel, stickleback, pike, grayling, roach, perch and salmon. Charismatic otters patrol the riverbanks at night, water voles ‘plop’ into the water from their burrows, and metallic kingfishers skim the water’s surface.
Good for people too
As well as supporting an immense variety of wildlife, wetlands also have an economic value – not only to the thousands of people who live on their edge, but also to communities living miles away. They are important sources for food, fresh water and building materials, and also provide valuable services such as water purification, flood defence and erosion control.
How we’re helping
For centuries people have had a relationship with the water. It has been used to navigate through town and country, provide power, irrigate the land for agriculture and as inspiration for art and literature. And yet, these habitats have been in serious decline – waters have been polluted with chemicals, bank habitats stripped and modified, dams built and wetland wildlife has been lost.
But there is hope. We have started to recognise that healthy wetlands are important, not just for wildlife, but also for us. River and floodplain restoration projects carried out by local Wildlife Trusts are aiding these vital habitats. And we’re working closely with planners, developers and farmers to ensure our wetlands are sensitively managed for the benefit of the plants and animals they hold.
You can support work for wetlands by joining Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.