Under UK biodiversity commitments, most rivers, streams, lakes and ponds are considered to be ‘priority habitats’ at some level. They form a critical part of our natural heritage and are under intense pressure from a range of human activities including human-induced climate change.
This website provides information on priority river (including streams) and lake habitats in England, how you can get involved in their protection and restoration, and in particular how you can provide information on the sites you visit to help prioritise conservation action. Other parts of the UK have their own approaches to conserving priority habitats as part of their separate biodiversity strategies.
Priority habitats form part of the UK’s commitment to the International Convention on Biodiversity. Each country who signed up to the Convention is required to define a range of habitats (and individual species) where action is a priority to protect and restore biodiversity, and then to take the necessary action. The UK’s list of priority habitats includes both river and lake habitats.
We know that the best way to conserve all the species associated with rivers, streams and lakes is to protect their habitat. The habitat should function as naturally as possible to conserve the full characteristic species complement, and support and connect with adjacent wetland and terrestrial habitats. Natural function generates a dynamic mosaic of high quality freshwater, wetland and terrestrial habitats within which each species has its niche, including rare and threatened species. Consequently, work on priority rivers, streams and lakes is designed to protect and restore natural function.
Getting involved in understanding what we have
Much of what we know about our freshwater habitat resource relates to larger rivers and lakes, where the focus of water management activities has historically been. We know much less about our streams, small lakes and ponds, but we do know there are hidden gems in the landscape – natural habitats full of our native wildlife are out there waiting to be put on a map to confirm their importance. This said, we want to know about all of our freshwater habitats whatever their state of naturalness, so that we can inform restoration priorities. Click here to tell us about the sites you visit – don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to report your observations.
Getting involved in taking action
We need to know about the best local places to restore lost natural function to our rivers, streams and lakes, so that they can provide the best habitats for our freshwater and wetland wildlife. Some need to have physical modifications removed, whilst others need natural water regimes restored, pollution reduced or non-native species controlled – many need a combination of these measures. Click here to find out how you can help identify the best places for restoring natural function and develop new maps of river/stream and lake restoration priorities that will feed into national strategies for recovering nature and improving the water environment.’ Click here to find out more about practical river/stream and lake restoration and where you can go to get your hands dirty!