Lakes are large standing waters bigger than 2 ha in area. We think of them as natural, but there are now a lot of man-made lakes as well – the result of gravel extraction, and other mineral mining, and the damming up of rivers for water supply.

Where are they found?

There are about 10,000 lakes in Britain – most quite small, under 10 ha in area. But the most obvious big natural lakes are found in lake districts like the Lake District, or the Scottish Highlands.

What can you find living in a lake?

The plants and animals of big lakes are the planktonic algae and tiny crustaceans that dominate the open water, and reeds and rushes of the margins, and the fish of deeper open water. Lakes are badly affected by pollution and have less wildlife than they should naturally, but they do still have a good variety of submerged water plants if not too polluted.

Why are they important?

Lakes are important because they provide habitats for plants and animals that need permanent water – including fish like the arctic charr, range of water plants, such as Long-stalked Pondweed, and the highly endangered Glutinous Snail. Lakes are important for a variety of waterbirds: naturally nutrient rich lakes in the lowlands can be  important breeding and wintering grounds  for waterfowl. In Scotland, lakes may support breeding Red-throated and Black-throated Divers.

What we’re doing to help

We want to organise the first national survey of lakes, especially the thousands of smaller lakes about which we currently know almost nothing. We’ll do everything we can then to protect the best of them. We’ll be working with mineral companies – who create lakes as a result of gravel extraction – to make new lakes of high wildlife quality.