The Wildlife of the Gwent Levels

The Gwent Levels is the largest area of its kind in Wales and is of acknowledged UK-wide significance for its wildlife and archaeology. It is so valuable for wildlife that the whole area has been designated as a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The Levels qualify as SSSI on the basis of their rare wetland plants and invertebrates, but they are also home to other creatures such as otters, water voles and breeding waders. The proximity of the site to the internationally important Severn Estuary and River Usk add further value to this wetland complex.

If the Levels Motorway goes ahead, one of the UK’s largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marshes and reen (drainage ditch) systems with its associated wildlife will be irreparably damaged.

A swathe of habitat will be lost to the motorway itself, which will also create a huge barrier separating the wildlife on either side of it, whilst the road run off will pollute the whole reen system – killing off sensitive wetland wildlife.

Wildlife at threat includes:

Mammals and Birds

  • Otters are now widespread on the Gwent Levels, but their biggest threat comes from road kills.
  • The Levels are a key area for Water Voles, which has become a rare species across most of Britain.
  • The first pair of Cranes to breed in Wales for centuries have chosen an undisturbed spot to nest – this is right on the line of the Levels Motorway.
  • Breeding waders such as Lapwing, Redshank and Curlew breed locally across the Levels, along with other wetland species such as Kingfishers.
  • Barn Owls can be found here – this is another species which is very susceptible to being knocked down by traffic and the Levels Motorway is likely to result in their extinction from the area.


  • The Gwent Levels is the best place in Wales for wetland insects and other invertebrates, from water beetles and soldierflies to dragonflies and damselflies. Around 150 rarities are known from this area, some found nowhere else in Wales.

Flowering Plants

The Levels support the rootless duckweed (Wolffia arrhiza). This is considered to be the world’s smallest flowering plant and occurs nowhere else in Wales. Other significant plant species include:

  • Brackish water-crowfoot
  • Hairlike pondweed
  • Blunt-leaved pondweed
  • Small pondweed
  • Lesser pondweed
  • Narrow-leaved water-plantain
  • Whorled water-milfoil
  • Fine-leaved water-dropwort
  • Meadow thistle
  • Blunt-flowered rush

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