Close up view of a bright blue and orange kingfisher, perched on the top of a reed

Wildlife of freshwater and coastal wetland habitats

From the peatland and springs, which feed upland streams, to mudflats and coastland at the mouth of an estuary - the huge range of freshwater and coastal habitats in the UK support a treasury of different plants and animals.

Rivers

Close up view of an adult water vole feeding on blackberry foliage, on a mossy island on a river

Our rivers are home to iconic wildlife such as otters, beavers and kingfishers. You’ll also find salmon, water voles and water crowfoot with its masses of tiny white flowers.

 

Otters have gradually re-colonised many parts of the river network in England, largely since hunting was banned.

Lakes

Close up view of an adult white tailed sea eagle in flight, preparing to catch a fish, with bight yellow talons poised, about to hit the surface of choppy dark blue waves

Lakes are a haven for wildlife. The UK is particularly important for its aquatic plants, supporting one of the most diverse floras in Europe.

 

Our lakes range from lowland systems such as the Norfolk Broads where you can see osprey and Britain’s loudest bird the booming bittern, to the cold waters of lochs in the uplands in Scotland that are home to incredible animals such as sea eagles.

Ponds

Close up view of a dark, spotty, Natterjack toad, with big green and black eyes in the focus of the image

Making a pond is one of the best things you can do for wildlife. Ponds attract not only the usual suspects such as dragonflies and water boatmen but also endangered species like the great-crested newt, natterjack toads and one of the UK’s rarest plants - starfruit. 

Freshwater wetlands

View across a lake, from the dense green foliage and reeds on the bank

Freshwater wetlands are the home of an extraordinary array of wild plants (nearly one third of the flowering plants in Britain occur in fenland habitats), as well as many beetles, reptiles and amphibians such as frogs and newts. They include fens, wet grasslands, reedbeds and peatland. 

Coastal

Close up view of a yellowy-green, adult, shore crab, sat on pebbly ground

As well as being vital for birds, estuaries and coasts support important plant communities on saltmarshes and mudflats and many crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters. Find out more about the RSPB’s work and the importance of intertidal habitats for nature and climate through our online storymap.