Biodiversity hotspots where we can make a difference

A vital part of the Freshwater Network, Important Freshwater Areas delineate significant concentrations of freshwater biodiversity. From upland river catchments to lush lowland pondscapes, we will protect and better manage these biodiversity hotspots, where rare and threatened plant and animal species are still hanging on.

Restoring and protecting

Important Freshwater Areas vary from individual stretches of headwater streams with ‘High’ status Water Framework Directive invertebrate assemblages, small fen Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) to ponds with Critically Endangered species, expanses of blanket bog and large floodplain nature reserves.

We need to identify and protect these special places to reverse the decline in freshwater wildlife and, in some cases, ensure sites are restored or better managed.

This work is at the heart of our strategy to build a wilder, wetter, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network.




- Tadpole Shrimp (Triops cancriformis) - one of Britain's most endangered animals. Copyright Neil Phillips

How we'll do it

We’re identifying Important Freshwater Areas region by region, applying criteria agreed by a panel of freshwater specialists to work out which sites qualify as freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

In these areas we’ll work collaboratively to ensure that all freshwater Species of Conservation Concern found within Important Freshwater Areas are specifically targeted in local conservation, planning and pollution policy. And we’ll promote practical habitat creation and restoration programmes to ensure that individual Important Freshwater Areas become less isolated, more resilient and better managed.

Blue and black damselfly resting on a stem.

- Southern Damselfly at Cothill Fen, Oxfordshire. Photo copyright Alan S.L. Leung.

Building the Freshwater Network

Find out more about how we’re creating, restoring and protecting habitats in Important Freshwater Areas.

Plant with red and yellow spokes in shallow water, sparkling in the sunlight.
New Forest Catchment Partnership

We’re working in partnership to protect the New Forest’s internationally-significant freshwater habitats in Important Freshwater Areas.

Find out more
Aerial view of alkaline fen with people raking and scything and electricity pylon.
Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network

With a rich wetland heritage, this region includes many Important Freshwater Areas.

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Aerial view of fen with trees around it.
Oxfordshire Fens project

We’re protecting the county’s internationally-significant alkaline fen habitat to restore these Important Freshwater Areas.

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Working together for freshwater wildlife

We can’t build the Freshwater Network alone. That’s why we’re working with many partners across England and Wales, including landowners, other conservation NGOs and funders, to protect Important Freshwater Areas and create a better future for freshwater wildlife.

Get in touch to find out how you can work with us to build a wetter, wilder, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network.

Two men standing in a shallow waterbody, looking at plants and invertebrates in the water.

- David Morris (Freshwater Habitats Trust) and Richard Watson (National Trust) at the newly-created floodplain wetland mosaic habitats at National Trust Coleshill on the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border.