The term ‘wetlands’ can cover a vast array of habitats. They are considered by international conventions to include areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt. This page covers most of these with Fen and Peatland discussed as a separate page.

Areas of standing open water of all sizes occur in the region, from large lochs such as the Dee to small ponds. The most important type, in relation to biodiversity, is mesotrophic lochs. These sites have an intermediate nutrient status, have the highest diversity of large plants and contain many nationally scarce and rare aquatic plants such as Pillwort Pillularia globifera and Slender Naiad Najas flexilis. Examples include Loch Kindar and Milton Loch.

Rivers and streams are dynamic systems which in their natural state are continually changing their form, though there are few in the whole of the UK that have not been significantly modified by man. There are eleven main rivers in Dumfries and Galloway, from the River Esk in the east to the Luce in the west. Of the region’s watercourses, 75% are designated salmonid waters (capable of supporting salmon and/or trout). Rivers consist of a mosaic of features, which support a diverse range of plants and animals. Shingle beds and sand bars are important habitats for invertebrates. In addition, riparian trees along riverbanks support a great number of woodland birds. Otters Lutra lutra are widely distributed throughout the region’s river network and Sparling (Smelt) Osmerus eperlanus migrate to spawn on the River Cree.

Carr, marsh, swamp and reedbeds are widespread, but fragmented, habitats. In Dumfries and Galloway, both coastal and freshwater reedbeds can be found, although there are few large reedbeds. Nationally it is amongst the most important habitats for birds, including the Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus which occasionally breed in the region. It also provides habitat for a range of specialised invertebrates.

Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh in Dumfries and Galloway is mostly found in river floodplains, with an excellent example along the Bladnoch. Most of these areas are intensively farmed, reducing the area of habitat. It is important for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl, particularly geese, and is a key hunting territory for species like the Barn Owl Tyto alba. It is also rich in plant species, such as Holy Grass Hierochloe oderata and supports many invertebrates.

The Local Biodiversity Action Plan identifies nine priority wetland habitats:

  • River Headwaters
  • Lowland Rivers and Backwaters
  • Exposed River Shingle
  • Eutrophic Lochs
  • Mesotrophic Lochs
  • Oligotrophic Lochs
  • Reedbeds
  • Marshes
  • Upland Springs and Flushes
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SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475

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