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Special Areas of Conservation

1096 Brook lamprey Lampetra planeri

Vertebrate species: fish

Description and ecological characteristics

The brook lamprey Lampetra planeri is a primitive, jawless fish resembling an eel, and is the smallest of the lampreys found in the UK. It is a non-migratory freshwater species, occurring in streams and occasionally in lakes in north-west Europe. Like other lamprey species, the brook lamprey requires clean gravel beds for spawning and soft marginal silt or sand for the ammocoete larvae. It spawns mostly in parts of the river where the current is not too strong.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with species 1096 Lampetra planeri. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

The brook lamprey Lampetra planeri has declined in some parts of its European range.

UK status and distribution

The brook lamprey Lampetra planeri has declined in parts of the UK, although it is still widespread. This species is the most abundant and widespread of the British lampreys and is often found in the absence of the other two species, for example above a barrier that precludes the presence of the migratory species. It is common in many areas of England but is absent from much of Scotland north of the Great Glen, including Orkney and Shetland and all but a few of the Western Isles.

View UK distribution of this species.

Site selection rationale

Sites that hold healthy populations of brook lamprey Lampetra planeri, with clean water and suitable areas of gravels, silt or sand required for spawning have been selected. The SAC series provides representation over the geographical range of the species and includes a range of high-quality river types in which it occurs. Sites selected are generally extensive river systems, including important tributaries, which provide conservation of the range of habitat features required by the species. Identification of suitable sites in some parts of the UK has been hampered by the absence of comparative population data, and by identification difficulties. While the SAC series makes a contribution to securing favourable conservation status for this Annex II species, wider measures are also necessary to support its conservation in the UK.

Site accounts

  • Afon Teifi/ River Teifi West Wales and The Valleys
    The Teifi is a predominantly mesotrophic river in west Wales supporting a large population of brook lamprey Lampetra planeri. A mixture of habitat and substrate types provides the combination of spawning gravels adjacent to silt beds that are favoured by this and other lamprey species. A large number of tributaries have been included in the SAC; these are thought to be important for lampreys in the Teifi because the main channel is prone to severe floods that may result in washout of smaller ammocoetes.
  • Afonydd Cleddau/ Cleddau Rivers West Wales and The Valleys
    The Cleddau rivers are a predominantly lowland catchment in the Pembrokeshire peninsula. The substrates consist mainly of sand, gravel and well-aerated silt, providing an excellent mosaic of lamprey spawning and nursery habitat. This is reflected in electrofishing surveys carried out by the Environment Agency, which indicate the presence of ammocoetes throughout the catchment.
  • Endrick Water Eastern Scotland, South Western Scotland
    The Endrick brook lamprey Lampetra planeri population is strong and healthy and represents the species in Scotland. The site also supports important populations of 1099 River lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis, for it is also selected.
  • River Avon Dorset and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
    The Avon is a high-quality river that represents the southern part of the range of brook lamprey Lampetra planeri. A healthy, stable population occurs in the main river and in a number of tributaries. The main river, and in particular its tributaries, provides clean beds of gravel for spawning and extensive areas of fine silt for juveniles to burrow into.
  • River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake Cumbria
    The Derwent represents brook lamprey Lampetra planeri in a high-quality, oligotrophic river in northern England. Good populations of the species are known to occur, and this river has features that provide the necessary conditions for both spawning and nursery areas – extensive gravel shoals, good water quality and areas of marginal silt.
  • River Eden Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear
    The Eden is an example of a brook lamprey Lampetra planeri population associated with an extensive river system on a varied and base-rich geology in northern England. The highly erodible nature of the rock results in extensive areas of gravel and finer silt being deposited throughout the system, providing conditions for spawning and nursery areas. Brook lamprey is supported widely within the catchment.
  • River Teith Eastern Scotland
    The River Teith rises and flows through upland areas before crossing the Highland Boundary Fault, a major geological feature in Scotland, at the Falls of Leny and meandering through the central lowlands to the east coast. The river system supports a strong brook lamprey Lampetra planeri population. Brook lampreys have been recorded from the headwaters downstream to the lower reaches. The river provides excellent habitat with usually pristine water quality, well-vegetated banks and a substantially unaltered river channel. The River Teith supports high densities of brook/river lamprey ammocoetes and also supports a healthy population of sea lamprey.
  • River Usk/ Afon Wysg East Wales, West Wales and The Valleys
    The Usk in south Wales supports a healthy population of brook lamprey Lampetra planeri and is considered to provide exceptionally good quality habitat likely to ensure the continued survival of the species in this part of the UK.
  • River Wye/ Afon Gwy East Wales, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, West Wales and The Valleys
    The Wye is an extensive river system spanning the border between England and Wales and the brook lamprey Lampetra planeri population is widely distributed in its catchment. The river provides exceptionally good quality habitat for brook lamprey and supports a healthy population.

SACs where this Annex II species is a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.

Please note that the map shows sites where the presence of a feature is classed as ‘grade d’, but these sites are not listed. This is because ‘grade d’ indicates a non-significant presence.