Reedbed HAP

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Wildlife Trust)

1. Reedbed Definition

Reedbeds are wetlands dominated by stands of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) where the water table is at or above ground level for part of the year. They tend to incorporate areas of open water and ditches also small areas of wet grassland and carr woodland may be associated with them.

Two types of reedbed are generally recognised - reed swamp and reed fen (typically National Vegetation Communities such as S4 (Phragmites australis swamp and reedbeds) and S26 (Phragmites australis - Urtica dioica tall herb fen) respectively). Reed swamp is permanently waterlogged with a summer surface level of around 20 cm. Reed swamp is likely to contain pure stands of reed. Reed fen has a water level at or below the surface in summer and is likely to be more botanically diverse.


2. Current Status and Distribution [top]

2.1 National

Currently, there are about 5000 hectares (ha) of reedbed in the UK, consisting of approximately 900 sites, but only about 50 are greater than 20 ha (Painter 1994). Reedbeds are a scarce habitat in the UK, with an area less than that of either native pinewood, lowland heathland or primary raised bog (RSPB 1994).

2.2 County

The known reedbed resource in Sussex currently only extends to about 65 ha. Filsham Reedbed, Hastings, the Pannel Valley, Rye and reedbed within Chichester Harbour are the most significant examples. On Sussex wetlands reeds generally form a significant component of the ditch flora but are prevented from colonising further by grazing practices and water level control. Flood defence requirements prevent extensive reedbed growth along the major Sussex rivers. These marginal reedbed stands, whilst not forming blocks of over 2 ha, do represent a significant reed stand, accounting for many of the breeding reed warblers and support other important species such as snails and moths.

Table 1 Reedbed in Sussex

Figures in parenthesis indicate expected future area (existing targets).

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve currently has 7 ha of reedbed although the largest continuous block is approximately 1.5 ha. However, the reedbed is in relatively close proximity and in a contiguous ecological unit.



3. The Importance of Reedbeds [top]

3.1 Birds

Reedbeds have been identified by the UK Biodiversity Steering Group Report (1995) as a priority for conservation action. Reedbeds are amongst the most important habitats for birds in the UK, including six nationally rare Red Data Book Birds (bittern, marsh harrier, crane, Cetti's warbler, Savi's warbler and bearded tit), provide roosting and feeding sites for migratory species and are used as roost sites for several raptor species in winter. Four species of bird are dependent on reedbed (bittern, marsh harrier, Savi's warbler and bearded tit) and six species partly dependent (Cetti's warbler, spotted crake, Montagu's harrier, marsh warbler, sedge warbler and little bittern).

3.2 Invertebrates

The invertebrate interest of reedbeds is high. Over 700 species of invertebrate have been recorded from reed-dominated plant communities, including 23 Red Data Book species. Some of Britain s rarest invertebrate species are known to be associated with, and in some cases specific to, reedbed habitats. Five Red Data Book invertebrates are closely associated with reedbeds, including red leopard moth and a rove beetle. O.W Richards (in Haslam 1972) listed thirty nine species of insect closely associated with reed. Fojt and Foster (1992) indicate that at least sixty four species of insect from Britain are reported to feed on reed during at least one stage of their life history. Not all of these are solely dependent on reed, since some have alternative host plants. There are, however, approximately forty species that feed only on reed.

3.3 Flora

The botanical interest of stands of reed is often limited. However, reedbed as part of a wetland complex is likely to be more floristically diverse. Reed fen is likely to have a higher floristic diversity than reed swamp, especially where reed fen refers to vegetation ~ communities on calcareous peat.

3.4 Fish

Reedbeds act as important refugia for shoals of young fish, at the open water interface. Eels especially, are an important food source for many animals, in particular bitterns.

3.5 Amphibians and Reptiles

Reedbeds have the potential to support all of Britain s amphibian species, including the great crested newt. The grass snake is a common inhabitant of many reedbeds.

3.6 Mammals

Most mammals found in reedbeds are associated with a range of aquatic habitats. However, this includes some rare species such as the otter and the water vole. Other species include the harvest mouse and the water shrew.

Although small, the Sussex Reedbeds contain populations of important species, including Bearded tit at Thorney Island, Filsham and Pannel Valley and overwintering bittern in the Pannel Valley and at Pett Pools complex. The reed stands at Burpham on the River Arun play host to a rare snail called Mercuria confusa. The reedbeds in Sussex are thought to be of importance to migrant aquatic warblers on autumn migration, this species is considered to be globally threatened.

Savi's warbler have summered at the Pannel Valley and an occasional prospecting pair of marsh harriers turn up at the same location.


4. Importance of Reedbeds for People/Local Community and their Cultural Significance [top]

Traditionally, reedbed was enhanced, managed and maintained by reed cutters who used the reed for thatching material. Extensive reed harvesting used to be manually undertaken on many small beds throughout the country to supply a network of thatchers. The industry continues today, employing around 1000 people (Hawke and Jose 1996). The demand for thatching reed outstrips supply from UK beds and most has to be imported. Imported reed is generally cheaper as a result of lower labour costs elsewhere. The management, creation and restoration of reedbeds can help redress the balance.

In recent years the value of reedbeds has been recognised by the water treatment industry for their ability to act as natural filtration systems for wastewater. Currently, there are a number of pilot and fully operational schemes looking at the technology for a variety of purposes, including treatment of sewage, leachate, industrial effluent and agricultural run-off

Recreation is an additional use for reedbeds, including shooting and more informal recreational activities such as birdwatching.

Reedbeds have uses for flood defence purposes and aquifer recharge. Flood defence and aquifer recharge are both highly pertinent points in Sussex, where artificial flood defence structures occur along all the major rivers, and over-abstraction and drainage have created summer water deficits in some areas.

5. Benefits to Local Business [top]

Whilst not immediately apparent, there are several significant economic benefits associated with the creation and protection of reedbeds in Sussex. Whilst it is beyond the scope of this Plan to go into detail, they are listed in the table below with brief examples or explanations:-

Production of reed for thatching purposes in Sussex itself rather than importing from abroad may generate employment for both skilled and unskilled labour provided that the material is competitively priced.

Basket-making and associated crafts
Supply of materials and possible generation of employment in the craft industry.

Establishment of reedbed nature reserves
Probable employment of site managers and team depending on the size of the reserve. Opportunities for developing skills of local volunteers and employees through on the job training.

Use of local engineering companies
Particularly in the establishment of new areas of reedbed when heavy plant may be required to excavate topsoil and drainage system. Associated employment of local labour. Larger sites may purchase their own plant e.g. reedcutters and tractors etc for ongoing site maintenance.

Establishment of Water Treatment Systems
Often of a very technical design, requiring the specialist input of local consultants. Significant potential in the future.

Naturalist/Birdwatching holidays
Large reedbed and wetland reserves attract many visitors. A significant reedbed in Sussex supporting Bittern. Marsh Harrier and other interesting species would generate significant interest on a regional and national scale. This would benefit the tourist sector considerably insofar as visitors use local accomodation and associated facilities during their stay. Often this will be outside the normal tourist season.

Provision of facilities at nature reserves
Facilities such as shops and cafes at nature reserves provide retail and catering employment for local people as well as generating income for the site management. Retail outlets on site offer the opportunities for selling local crafts and produce.

Education and Training
Reedbed creation would provide opportunities for environmental education of local residents and for residential courses on site for students from further afield.

6. Trends and Threats [top]

Reedbed losses nationwide are estimated at between 5% and 10% in the period 1979-1993. Losses between 1945 and 1990 for the UK have been estimated at 10-40% (RSPB 1994). It has been predicted that losses, by area, of the habitat will be 1-10% over the next 25 years assuming that existing threats continue at current rates.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust state in their Vision document that between the 1960s and the 1980s over 60% of the wetlands in Sussex were intensively drained.

Assessing the loss of reedbed in historical terms is difficult due to a lack of information. However, it is known that wetland has played a significant part in the landscape of Sussex over time, primarily the major river flood plains, the coastal plain and Pevensey Levels. Historically, there would have probably been notable reedbed areas in every major river floodplain and in certain locations along the coastal strip (possibly partly brackish and transient in character). Reedbed is likely to have played a significant part of the wetland mosaic in the river valley systems.

Although the level of reedbed is not indicated in old records, land usage records are indicative. Historical, agricultural records from Eastern Sussex, for example, show that the parishes of Playden and Iden (in the Rother catchment) in 1568 contained 13 acres of arable, 260 each of meadow and rough ground, 723 of pasture and 684 of marshland. Undoubtedly, these figures would not be reflected today!

Sussex Wildlife Trust (1996) state in their Vision document that:

Sussex wetlands have undergone many changes over the years, the majority of which have been detrimental to their ecology; These changes continue today. Over-abstraction of water has serious effects on the amounts of water in the channels during the summer months. Increased inputs of nutrients and silt can occur when adjacent fields are ploughed to the river edge. Changes in farming methods have led to widespread use of artificial fertilisers on both arable fields and improved grass, and this has added to the nutrient load. Many rivers continue to be physically altered by impounding, straightening, deepening, widening or diverting and this can have very destructive repercussions on riparian vegetation.

Nationally, the RSPB have identified the lack of management and the subsequent succession to drier and more wooded habitats as the major damaging factor to reedbeds in the last 20 years (RSPB 1994).

In Sussex the main threats and limiting factors for reedbeds are:

  • Lack of (or inappropriate) management resulting in vegetation change, leading to scrub encroachment and ultimately to woodland.
  • Past and present land drainage schemes for intensive agriculture.
  • Loss of area by excessive water abstraction.
  • Relative sea-level rise may lead to the loss of significant areas of reedbed and wetland on the Sussex coastal strip. At the least, an increase in saline incursions can be expected.
  • Flood defence management practices and river canalisation. Including the clearance of linear reedbeds on drains/dykes by drainage bodies.
  • The reedbed habitat is small and fragmented in nature and has critically tow populations of several dependent species.
  • Built development and road construction and the indirect effects of increased run-off.
  • Livestock grazing ditchs, preventing or destroying a reedbed habitat.
  • Pollution may include an increase in silt loads and nutrient content, resulting in the degradation of a reedbed.
  • Limited incentives available to encourage reedbed creation.
  • Reedbeds have a lack of perceived value for people and there is no economic return in an agricultural framework.


7. Potential for Reedbed in Sussex [top]

The UK Steering Group Reedbed Habitat Action Plan states that reedbed creation and rehabilitation should be targeted in the South-East, where the best potential exists for encouraging important reedbed species. However, Sussex currently has a very small reedbed resource in comparison to neighbouring counties. Hampshire and Kent have a resource approximately seven times greater than that in Sussex. Generally, the reasons for this are historical land use and river floodplain management. It could be argued that Kent has more reedbed opportunities than Sussex due to the nature of the land (i.e. flat, low lying areas such as the North Kent Marshes and Romney Marsh), but the same cannot be said of Hampshire. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that Sussex has the capacity, to expand the current reedbed area by at least seven times. Areas such as Pevensey Levels and the major river flood plains offer enormous potential.

Reedbed potential exists on all the major river flood plains, and on some of the minor river and tributary flood plains. Additionally, there are locations along the coastal strip where reedbed creation opportunities exist, although long-term viability must be considered here (i.e. future sea-level rise). Other reedbed opportunities are likely to occur at major development schemes (e.g. roads), mineral extraction sites, gravel pits and lakes, and other wetland areas. On a smaller scale, ponds and wet flushes may provide some potential (this will need to be weighed against other conservation objectives). There is some potential for reedbeds designed as functional water treatment systems to serve as habitats in their own right. Reedbed creation should concentrate on land of low conservation value.

In Sussex there is potential to:

a) Rehabilitate existing reedbeds

b) Expand existing reedbeds

c) Create new reedbeds



8. Current Action [top]

Most of the areas encompassing significant existing reedbeds are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Protection Areas (or proposed SPA) and/or Ramsar (or proposed) sites, and most are managed as nature reserves.

Additional areas have been identified as Sites of Nature Conservation Importance, and owners are encouraged through advice and the provision of grant aid to manage the reedbed for conservation or in sympathy with it.

The Environment Agency and RSPB jointly, have recently completed a survey identifying potential extensive reedbed sites in the Environment Agency Southern Region.

English Nature, Environment Agency; RSPB, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Local Authority staff often provide advice to reedbed owners/managers on appropriate management, rehabilitation, extension and creation.

The bittern is on the English Nature Species Recovery Programme.

Chichester Harbour Conservancy have identified reedbed opportunities in the Chichester Harbour Management Plan. They have policies to: work with landowners to rehabilitate existing reedbeds and; to seek opportunities for the creation of new reedbeds, particularly adjacent to existing sites. They are currently aiming to extend the reedbed at Thorney Island.

The RSPB, at their Pulborough Reserve, intend to initiate some reedbed creation in the Arun Valley. It is not likely to be in a single block but part of a wetland mosaic.

South-East Water are investigating the possibility of creating reedbeds at both Arlington and Ardingly reservoirs.

Adur District Council produced a wetland feasibility study on the lower Adur in March 1997 entitled The potential of restoration of wetland biodiversity .

The Ouse Estuary Project, east of Newhaven, includes a major environmental enhancement scheme designed by East Sussex County Council that should eventually result in the creation of an extensive 15 ha area of reedbed.

Lake and wetland creation associated with construction work in Eastbourne Park will result in the development of reebeds which should eventually total more than 10 ha.

Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve aim to extend their reedbed resource.

Charleston reedbed is owned by Eastbourne College but maintained and run by the Sussex Ornithological Society as a reedbed habitat.

Sussex Wildlife Trust manage Filsham reedbed by cutting on a seven-year rotation in order to create temporary open water and maintain the habitat quality. Filsham reedbed is the largest reedbed in Sussex.

A landowner has created a wetland in the Pannel Valley, East Sussex, of about 40 ha, containing approximately 15 ha of reedbed. This site is actively managed as a wetland bird habitat. The site has only recently been created from arable land, but wintering bittern have been observed until late spring (J.Willsher pers. comm.). Additionally, 20 pairs of bearded tit bred during 1996. There are plans to enlarge the reedbed in the Pannel Valley.

Reedbed is actively encouraged, created (where feasible) and maintained, at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

The West Sussex County Council Landscape Strategy recognises the importance and significance of reedbeds within a number of landscape types.

Both the Arun Valley and the Ouse Valley Project Officers work with farmers and landowners to encourage the retention and management of reedbeds and other river valley habitats.

The Environmentally Sensitive Area and Countryside Stewardship schemes promote the conservation of reedbeds through grant support.

Water treatment companies are utilising small reedbed areas for storm overflow and tertiary treatment at sewage treatment works. Southern Water Services Ltd., are expecting to increase the number of their reedbed treatment systems in Sussex from the current three. These will primarily be at small sewage treatment works serving less than 2000 people.

Linear reedbeds have been incorporated as mitigation in the design for the A259 widening should this development proceed.

The Environment Agency has assisted in the creation of a small area of reedbed at Lewes Railway Trust land.

English Nature reedbed targets by Natural Areas:

South Coast Plain
Maintain and rehabilitate where necessary, wet reedbed in Pagham Harbour (12ha),Chichester Harbour (9ha),Arun Banks (3ha) and Arundel Park (4ha).

Romney Marsh
Maintain and rehabilitate where necessary, wet reedbed at Dungeness (15 ha) and Pett Level (12ha) by 2000.

Wealden Greensand
Maintain and rehabilitate where necessary, wet reedbed at Burton Park (4ha). Create 20 ha of wet reedbed at Pulborough Brooks by 2010.

Low Weald and Pevensey Levels
Create 20 ha of wet reedbed with opportunities at Arlington Reservoir, Redgate Mill and at Pevensey Levels by 2010.

High Weald
Maintain and rehabilitate where necessary, wet reedbed at Combe Haven (19ha) by 2000.

There is no formal protection offered to small isolated sites or linear reedbeds along rivers and ditches outside the SSSIs, although the Environment Agency s maintenance programme is screened for conservation impacts.


9. Existing Agri-environment Schemes [top]

DEFRA have designated the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) to maintain and enhance the landscape, wildlife and historic value of the area by encouraging beneficial agricultural practices. Since reedbeds are not farmed , the ESA can only provide a limited incentive for the creation and management of reedbeds. The South Downs ESA has two tiers relevant to reedbed:

Tier 2 - Permanent grassland in the River Valleys CC6O per ha) and;

Tier 3B - Arable Reversion to Permanent Grassland (1250 per ha).

50% grants are available for pond creation and restoration, the creation of scrapes and for the creation of reedbeds (including sedgebeds). 30% grants are available for the creation or reinstatement of dykes and ditches and 80% grants for the construction of water penning structures (bunds, sluices and other works).

DEFRA s Countryside Stewardship Scheme operates in the wider countryside, where payments are available to enhance and conserve important landscapes, their wildlife habitats and history. The most significant landscape type is Waterside Land . For reedbed creation 40/ha/year is available for up to 5 years, with an additional 100/ha/year available for ongoing management. One-off payments are available for capital works, such as bunds ( 40), timber sluices ( 140), concrete, brick or stone sluices ( 400), culverts ( 4O), dykes, ponds and scrapes.

The Wildlife Enhancement Scheme (WES) is designed to develop an effective partnership with managers of land in SSSIs and English Nature. WES provides a financial incentive for SSSI managers to carry out sympathetic management. In Sussex, WES is only applicable to the Pevensey Levels area.

Local authority and AONB countryside management projects promote the benefits of reedbed conservation and offers small incentive grants.

In their current form agri-environment schemes have had a minimal effect on reedbed management, restoration and creation. Within Sussex the most effective mechanisms are currently grant aid from various organisations locally and the Pevensey Levels WES (C. Burwood pers. comm.).


10. Objectives [top]

  1. Identify current areas of reedbed (targeting those of 1 ha or more).
  2. Ensure appropriate protection and management to maintain and enhance all reedbed sites.
  3. Identify areas suitable for reedbed creation and expansion.
  4. Expand and enhance existing reedbeds, especially those that have potential to support bitterns.
  5. Increase the reedbed area to support viable populations of important reedbed species.
  6. Implement suitable hydrological management to facilitate reedbed creation.
  7. Encourage the marketability of reed to specialist users

11. Targets and Costs [top]

  • Each major river valley to contain at least 20 ha of contiguous reedbed by 2010. Aim to have one major river valley wetland pilot scheme with at least20 ha of reedbed by 2001.
  • Major river valleys in Sussex @ 20 ha each gives a total of 100 ha of reedbed. The national costed Habitat Action Plan assigns costs of 100 /ha/yr for maintaining existing reedbed and costs of 620 /ha/yr for creation of reedbed.
  • Creation of an extensive reedbed of over 100 ha by 2010, on land of current low conservation value.
  • Creation of 100 ha reedbed at a cost of 620 /ha/yr
  • Create riparian habitat zones along 25% of all Sussex main rivers, incorporating 25% of reedbed, (Sussex Wildlife Trust - Vision target) in order to create a network of reed-fringed corridors between priority reedbeds Total of approx 1100 km of main river in Sussex. Target of 25% to have riparian habitat zones is equivalent to 275 km on the ground. Target of 25% of this to be reedbed is equivalent to 70 km on the ground. A strip of two metres width would total 14 ha of linear reed stands. A strip of six metres width would create 42 ha of reedbed.
  • For 50% of Sewage Treatment Works to incorporate a reedbed treatment system of at least 0.25 ha by 2010; to act as a functional component in strategic catchment management planning.
  • Capital and maintenance costs are low and benefits are often significant although difficult to cost.
  • To have at least two breeding pairs of bittern by 2010 in reedbeds of long-term viability. To have at least five breeding pairs by 2050. No significant costs attached other than monitoring.
  • Ensure existing priority areas of reedbed are under appropriate management by the year 2000 and maintain thereafter by active management. Existing significant reedbed resource in Sussex total about 64 ha. Maintaining this resource at a cost of 100 /ha/yr would total around 6,500 per annum.


12. Action Plan


13. Monitoring and Review [top]

This Habitat Action Plan will be monitored by the Sussex Biodiversity Partnership on an annual basis. This will include the monitoring of the fulfilment of the actions carried out against the targets set.

A full review and updating of the plan will be carried out at five-yearly intervals.


14. References [top]

ADAS (1996) Monitoring the South Downs ESA 1987-1995.

Anon (1995) Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report - Volume 2: Action Plans,

HMSO, London.

Bibby, C, Housden, 5, Porter, R and Thomas, G (1989) A Conservation Strategy for Birds.

RSPB. Unpublished Report.

Fojt W. and Foster A. (1992) Reedbeds, their Wildlife and Requirements. The Creation and Management of reedbeds for Wildlife (ed. D. Ward). RSPB/Bristol University.

Haslam S.M (1972) Biological flora of the British Isles. Phragmites communis Trin. Journal of Ecology 60:565-610.

Painter, M (1994) The UK Reedbed Inventory Report. RSPB. Sandy.

Rodwell J.R. (1995) British Plant Communities Volume 4: Aquatic communities, swamps and tall-herb fens. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

RSPB (1994) Reedbed Habitat Action Plan. RSPB. Unpublished.

Sussex Wildlife Trust (1996) Vision for the Wildlife of Sussex, Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Wheeler, B.D. et. al. (1995) Wetland Resource Evaluation and the NRAs Role in its Conservation: 1. Resource Assessment. NRA.


15. Consultation [top]

In preparing this Plan the following groups were initially consulted:- Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust, English Nature, RSPB, East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council, relevant individuals in local councils, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, Farming and Rural Conservation Agency, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Sussex Ornithological Society, Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group, Butterfly Conservation and Dr Martin Willing (leading mollusc expert). Further comments were received from the members of the Sussex Biodiversity Partnership.


16. Appendices [top]

Ecology of Reedbeds

From: NVC S4 (Rodwell 1995)

Phragmites is a natural dominant in a wide range of permanently wet or periodically waterlogged habitats of differing trophic state and with a variety of substrates. Stands are common in open water transitions around lakes and ponds, in floodplain mires and in estuaries, where their extent can be considerable, along dykes (including those with brackish water), canals and sluggish lowland rivers, in small pools, peat cuttings and on salt-marshes. Cropping extends the occurrence of the community into some naturally drier situations.

Phragmites is a rhizomatous perennial with annual aerial parts. In general, Phragmites performs best and stands are most luxuriant and productive in wet, eutrophic habitats and can survive with water-tables which range between 2 m above the substrate to more than 1 m below and with various patterns of fluctuation or none. The best performance seems to be attained in Britain where the water level ranges from + 50 cm to - 20 cm and where there is flooding for at least several months of the year. Phragmites is moderately tolerant of saline waters and soils.

Light grazing need not be deleterious because thicker crops of shorter shoots can be produced if leading emergents are bitten off. However, heavy grazing may prevent shoot replacement and trampling can damage the upper rhizomes and hinder bud development in the autumn. Grazing combined with drainage is especially effective in speeding reed decline.

As well as providing a food source for some herbivores, larger stands of reed can offer a valuable breeding or roosting site for a variety of birds. Most of the British populations of bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit nest exclusively in the community.

In natural situations, the community occurs as part of zonations which can, in any particular site, be related most frequently to a gradient of water-level. Frequently, the community gives way directly to some form of fen.

When undisturbed the community can be very persistent. It can retain its dominance under a wide variety of conditions and in optimal habitats stands can be very extensive and long-lived.

Monodominant stands of reed are simple systems with few associated species. In natural situations, reedbeds occur marginal to open water, where it may form part of early hydroseral succession, and also within floodplain fens such as Broadland. Stands may also occur at the heads of estuaries and upper salt marshes. Stands of reed may also be found in artificial situations such as extraction pits. The largest stands of reed occur within flood plain mires. (from Fojt and Foster 1992)

Requirements of Reedbed Dependent Species

Reedbeds will be of maximum value where they form part of a wetland complex with adjacent lakes, ponds, wet meadow, open water, saltmarsh, carr and/or woodland.


Reedbed Dependent Species:


The bittern is a rare breeding species in Britain, with no recent breeding records in Sussex. They are confined to lowland marshes dominated by common reed. They require large wet reedbeds in which to breed which are freshwater, at least 20 ha in size, 20% open water and with a water depth between 10 - 25 cm. They require an extensive reededge / open water interface and an abundance of fish prey.

Marsh Harrier

Marsh harriers are now recovering from near extinction in the early 1970s. They nest in secluded reedbed and may hunt over much of the surrounding area taking small birds, mammals and other vertebrates. Wet reedbeds are less favoured. The size of reedbed is not critical but large sites (> 25 ha) are preferred.

Bearded Tit

The bearded tit is dependent on drier reedbeds than the previous species. Most birds are found in solid tracts of reed and associated dense, tall, non-woody vegetation growing by, or often in, fresh or brackish water and adjoining marshes and swamps.

Savi's Warbler

This species is still rare in Britain, but their occurrence has a distinctly south-easterly bias. They are generally restricted to large, wet reedbeds, that contain or are adjacent to mixed herbaceous fen and scrub. They are insectivores, and prefer to nest in drier areas of wet reedbeds.

Reed Warbler

Not restricted to large stands of reedbed, this species is often found nesting in reed margins of watercourses.

Sedge Warbler

Favours a mix of reed and sedge species, as well as some individual or small groups of willow trees within the reed.

Key Biodiversity Species Associated with Reedbed Habitat

Aquatic Warbler
Acrocephalus paludicola
passing migrant
Priority Species

Botauris stellaris
Priority Species

A ground beetle
Dromius sigma
Priority Species

Lutra lutra
Priority Species

National Reedbed Habitat Action Plan Objectives and Proposed Targets

From: Biodiversity -The UK Steering Group Report (1995).

Identify and rehabilitate by the year 2000 the priority areas of existing reedbed (targeting those of 2 ha or more) and maintain this thereafter by active management.

This target should provide habitat for 40 pairs of bitterns and provide optimum conditions for other reedbed species and should be targeted primarily in the south-east.

Create 1,200 ha of new reedbed on land of low nature conservation interest by 2010.

The creation of new reedbed should be blocks of at least 20 ha with priority for creation in areas near existing habitat, and linking to this wherever possible. The target should provide habitat for an estimated 60 breeding pairs of bitterns boosting numbers to previous levels. It should be targeted in the south-east of Britain.

Bittern Species Action Plan Objectives and Targets

From: Biodiversity - The UK Steering Group Report (1995).

To arrest the decline of the bittern, maintaining at least 20 booming birds over the present range, and start to increase the population and range before the year 2000.

Increase the population to about 50 booming males by 2010, by ensuring appropriate management of the existing 22 large reedbeds where bittern once occurred.

Initiate work to secure the long-term future of bitterns in the UK by providing suitable habitat for a population of not less than 100 booming males by 2020.

Encourage the creation of at least 1,200 ha of reedbed in blocks of greater than 20 ha at existing former and new areas in England and Wales.