Its distribution is generally widespread but very fragmented and localised, mainly due to habitat loss. The Water Vole's main habitats are earth banks alongside open water, ditches and field drains, marshes and wetlands.
Photo: John Robinson
Wetland habitats are critical for a variety of animal and plant species. Wetlands can be permanently wet or, as within a flood plain, periodically immersed. Prescriptions 15-20 support appropriate management of various wetland features and habitats found on farmland.
Wetlands are very important as breeding and feeding areas for waders, particularly where associated with unimproved pasture. Different species of wading bird require differing levels of water. For example, snipe need wet conditions to probe for invertebrates while lapwing will inhabit drier areas. Many other bird species are associated with wetlands. Reed buntings, for example, will nest in a variety of wetland vegetation types including sedges, rushes and other tall, thick vegetation.
Alder, willow and other trees growing around wetlands and watercourses are important in stabilising river banks. Bank erosion can be a problem in livestock farming areas. Once stock are removed, both ground cover and woody vegetation can establish. Native tree planting is appropriate in some instances; while, in others, where more trees would result in excessive shading, it is not.
The agricultural threats to wetlands can be from drainage activities, fertiliser and pesticide application, run-off and grazing livestock in inappropriate numbers or when ground conditions are unsuitable.