Freshwater and wet places

Credits: Baston Fen - Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust

Water and wildlife go together and many of our richest areas for wildlife are freshwater wetlands. Just think of the huge flocks of birds that migrate to the UK’s wetlands in autumn and winter.

Our wetlands range from small ponds and tiny streams to lengthy rivers like the Severn and extensive wetlands like the Somerset Levels, East Anglian Fens and the Norfolk Broads. Throughout history people have exploited the wildlife of rivers and wetlands, hunting wildfowl and trapping fish and eels to eat.

Many wetlands have been drained in the past to create rich agricultural land on which to grow crops exploiting the rich peaty soils formed by marshland plants. In recent times we have begun to recognise that our wetlands are vital, not just for wildlife, but to help prevent flooding and droughts by storing water. The plant-life of peat producing wetlands traps carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and locking it away as peat, which helps slow climate change. Wetlands, such as reedbeds, can also naturally clean up polluted water, helping keep our environment healthy. Isn’t that amazing!


Did you know?

Along with rainforests, freshwater wetland are the most productive habitats on our planet.

Wildlife to look out for:


Freshwater wetlands are an incredible habitat for birds. If you're a bird-watcher, this is the place to go! Each area has its own unique flora and fauna, but some of the birds you can expect to see in this habitat are mallard, mute swan, tufted duck, pochard, teal, shoveler, great-crested grebe, little grebe, kingfisher, greylag geese, Canada geese, reed warbler, reed bunting, water rail, moorhen, coot, cormorant, heron, bittern (rare), redshank, lapwing and many other species of waders and wildfowl. WOW!!




Where there's water, there's life! Keep an eye out for otter, water vole, water shrew, Chinese water deer, North American mink, brown rat.




Water-rich habitats have a beautiful, rich variety of plants, including common reed, bulrush, sedges, rushes, yellow iris, white water lily, pondweeds, water crowfoot, hornwort, water milfoil, duckweeds, angelica.




Freshwater habitats are teeming with invertebrates! These wonderful creepy-crawlies range from the usual to the completely incredible! Look out for swallowtail butterfly (our largest butterfly!), dragonflies and damselflies, water beetles, pond skaters, water scorpion, freshwater shrimps, water fleas (daphnia), water hoglouse, leeches, mosquitoes, midge species, caddis flies, moth species.



So many species of fish are found in freshwater, as you can imagine! A few you can spot are brown trout, eel, stickleback, minnow, pike, grayling, dace, roach, perch and many more.

Activities and wildlife spotting!

Click on the thumbnails below to download the activity sheets, or take a look here for even more!

Wildlife-spotting is lots of fun, and our spotting sheets can help! Click the thumbnails to download them, and get spotting! You can find lots more here