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Special Areas of Conservation

1099 River lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis

Vertebrate species: fish

Description and ecological characteristics

The river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis is found in coastal waters, estuaries and accessible rivers. The species is normally anadromous (i.e. spawning in freshwater but completing part of its life cycle in the sea), and pollution or artificial obstacles such as weirs or dams impede migration. There are a few land-locked populations, including one in Scotland which is seen as having special European importance.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with species 1099 Lampetra fluviatilis. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

The river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis is found only in western Europe, where it has a wide distribution from southern Norway to the western Mediterranean. The UK populations are considered important for the conservation of the species at an EU level.

UK status and distribution

The river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis is widespread in the UK, occurring in many rivers from the Great Glen in Scotland southwards, and populations are strong.

View UK distribution of this species.

Site selection rationale

Sites that hold healthy populations of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis, with clear water and suitable areas of gravels, silt or sand for spawning, have been selected. The SAC series covers the geographical range of the species and includes a range of high-quality river types in which it occurs. The selected sites are generally extensive river systems, including important tributaries, which provide conservation of the range of habitat features required by the species. Marine sites that are considered important migration routes or feeding grounds for this species have also been selected, usually where they abut a freshwater site. Identification of suitable sites in some parts of the UK has been hampered by the absence of comparative population data, and by difficulties in identifying juvenile lampreys. 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 large catchment of high conservation value in west Wales. It contains a healthy population of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis. The semi-natural channel containing a mixture of substrates and in-stream features provides excellent habitat for juvenile lampreys.
  • Afonydd Cleddau/ Cleddau Rivers West Wales and The Valleys
    The Cleddau Rivers in south-west Wales arise at fairly low altitude, and this moderate to low-gradient catchment with a mixture of gravels and silts provides large areas of good lamprey habitat. Electrofishing data indicates that ammocoetes are widespread throughout the SAC, and adult river lampreys Lampetra fluviatilis are evident during the spawning season.
  • Endrick Water Eastern Scotland, South Western Scotland
    A strong population of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis is present in the Endrick. This population is of particular importance because, unlike other populations which migrate to the sea, they remain in freshwater as adults, feeding on freshwater fish in Loch Lomond. This is the only instance of this unusual behavioural trait recorded in the UK.
  • River Derwent North Yorkshire
    The Derwent is one example of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis populations which inhabit the many rivers flowing into the Humber estuary in eastern England. Only the lower reaches of the Derwent are designated, reflecting the spawning distribution of the species in the Derwent system.
  • River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake Cumbria
    The Derwent represents river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis in an oligotrophic river in northern England. Good numbers of this 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 river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis population associated with an extensive river system on a very 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. The high quality of these habitats and their accessibility, even in the upper reaches, means that a large, healthy population of river lampreys occurs widely within the catchment.
  • River Teith Eastern Scotland
    The River Teith is a large river that flows eastwards through central Scotland and supports a strong population of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis. The river lacks any significant artificial barriers to migration, has good water quality and the necessary habitat types (extensive gravel beds and marginal silt beds) to support the river lamprey’s full life-cycle. All three British lamprey species are supported within the river.
  • River Usk/ Afon Wysg East Wales, West Wales and The Valleys
    The Usk in south Wales supports a healthy population of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis and is considered to provide exceptionally good quality habitat likely to ensure the continued survival of the species in this part of the UK. The river also supports important populations of 1096 Brook lamprey Lampetra planeri, for which it is also selected.
  • 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 crossing the border between England and Wales, and the river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis population is widely distributed in the catchment. The Wye provides exceptionally good quality habitat for river lamprey and supports a healthy population.
  • Severn Estuary/ Môr Hafren Dorset and Somerset, East Wales, Extra-Regio, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area
    Species occurrence description not yet available.
  • Solway Firth Cumbria, Extra-Regio, South Western Scotland
    The Solway Firth provides migratory passage for river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis to and from spawning and nursery grounds in a number of rivers, including the Eden which is designated as a cSAC for the species.

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.