World Wetland Day!



Loch Leven is one of the best places to see wetlands, and since it’s World Wetlands Day I’m going to explain exactly why that is.

The name says it all really, the main feature of Loch Leven National Nature Reserve is Loch Leven itself. This body of water holds the prestigious title of being Scotland’s largest shallow, lowland, naturally eutrophic loch making it big and nutrient-rich, to put it simply.

llIf you look at the lay of the land in this pic taken today, you’ll see that there is a lot of land that slopes down towards the loch. This means that a lot of nutrients from field run-off, including fertillisers, are susceptible to run into the loch. Unfortunately, in the 1800s this, combined with industry upstream of the loch, made the water so nutrient rich that algae began to thrive. The huge areas of water covered by the algae meant that light was blocked out, and as the algae die they take oxygen out of the water. As you can imagine, this was not good for life living in or around the loch.


Algae in a pond in Edinburgh

The negative effects of the over-eutrophication in the loch had knock-on effects on people, so various organisations and local landowners and businesses changed their ways for the better; stopping the flow of phosphorus into rivers from industry, farmers plowing fields across the way to reduce rainwater run-off, and a lot of monitoring work was carried out.

Nowadays the loch is a haven for wildlife due to the efforts of all involved, and now we hold huge numbers of both wintering and breeding wildfowl, some rare plants, and a rich mosaic of other habitats around the loch.

Loch Leven is designated for a number of reasons, and actually has a number of designations. These include..:

  • Site of Special Scientific Interest: for beetles, breeding birds, wintering birds, the fact it’s eutrophic, mire habitat, and plants.
  • RAMSAR: for reasons mentioned above…
  • Special Protection Area: for 10 species of wintering bird.
  • National Nature Reserve: for all of the above plus the fact that we have so many lovely visitors enjoying the wildlife that is thriving here.

Loch Leven’s multitude of wetland habitats is one of the reasons we have such a huge array of species, one list we have of all species recorded around the loch is just reaching over 2000, but there will certainly be species missed from that and species that haven’t been reliably recorded yet.

The loch itself holds thousands of wildfowl, fish, many plants, invertebrates, mammals, amphibians, and probably even some fungi. In fact, if you’re lucky you might even see people in the loch as pictured above.

Surrounding the loch we have many sections of reedbed. This habitat plays host to a number of specialised species such as reed bunting, sedge warbler, little grebe, some fungi that only grow on reeds, some moth species such as bulrush wainscot, and many more that I’d struggle to list in one blog post.

One species you may see using the reeds, especially at this time of year, are the starlings. They use the reedbeds as somewhere safe to roost overnight.


Our loch here by Kinross is fed by a few streams and rivers, and is drained by the River Leven down at Findatie. These rivers provide a slightly different habitat with running water. Again, another specific group of animals and plants enjoy these rivers. Birds such as the dipper and kingfisher can be seen zipping up and down, plants such as river-water crowfoot slow the flow and catch sediment, which in turn provides shelter for invertebrates in the river such as stonefly larva.

If you’re really lucky then you may see an otter using the rivers around the loch, showing that our ecosystem in healthy enough to support the highest predator in the foodchain.

Ponds are very important small habitats that can support a surprising number of species. We’ve done lots of pond dipping with various groups around the loch, see here for example.


Great Diving Beetle larva

Other than the standing water, we also have some wet land that counts as wetlands. If you walk down from Loch Leven’s Larder then between you and the loch is Carsehall Bog. To be honest, it’s more of a wetland mosaic including fen, ditches, a couple of ponds, and mostly rush mire.

This area holds some pretty spectacular plants such as lesser butterfly orchid, a beautiful white flower that loves the habitat that’s provided there along with other orchids and marsh-loving plants. Snipe also enjoy the wet ground for feeding in and jack snipe are also found in there sometimes.

So, since we have so many wetland areas on this NNR, we’d like to wish you a happy World Wetland Day and we hope you visit some time to experience the wonder of wetlands.

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6 Responses to World Wetland Day!

  1. Andrew Lloyd says:

    Very interesting article with good photos.

  2. Willie Wilson says:

    All well? Iam not quite so sure ,we are still experiencing some considerable algal blooms, last summer (2016) there was a succession of algae blooms, both blue green and diatom in Loch Leven.While I accept there has been an improvement on recent years I do feel we have to watch very carefully the water quality in Loch Leven.

    • gusroutledge says:

      True, it’s not yet absolutely perfect and it still needs a keen eye kept on it. Good to know there are so many people watching it at the moment though: SNH, CEH, Kinross Estate, etc. 🙂

  3. Cannot send to my wildlife friends on Facebook fb page send to facebook button is in the taskbar needs checking out and put right Please.

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