Reedbeds - Explore Kent

Current Status

Reedbeds are wetlands dominated by stands of common reed (Phragmites australis) and where the water table is normally at or above ground level for most of the year. Reedbeds are mainly associated with standing water, but will also form on the margins of slow-moving water courses.

The Kent Habitat Survey of 2003 found some 477 ha of reedbed in the county. Of this total 235 ha (49%) is found at Stodmarsh, Westbere and Preston Marshes. Small patches of reeds along dykes in the North Kent Marshes comprise a further 140 ha (29%).

One estimate suggested that 10-40% of the UK's reedbeds had been lost between 1945 and 1990. It seems likely that this trend has been slowed, or even reversed, by concerted action. Comparison of the latest Kent Habitat Survey with that of the early 1990s shows an increase of at least 10% (even allowing for differences in survey method), primarily due to the creation of nearly 50 ha of reedbed at Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve. Further recreation projects are underway on Romney Marsh and elsewhere in the county.

Small areas of reed, such as those found in marsh dykes, may still support important species associated with the habitat, including reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus, bearded reedling Panurus biarmicus and marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus: reedbeds should therefore be considered as important components of wider wetland complexes. However, at least one of the key species, bittern Botaurus stellaris, is believed to require extensive areas of reedbed for breeding.


The most extensive areas of reedbed in the county are protected within SSSIs, as are those smaller patches on the North Kent Marshes. There are national programmes for reedbed restoration and recreation, including action targeted at bitterns, and this is leading to a slow net increase in the area of this habitat in the South East. Site protection means that direct loss or damage is therefore unlikely, but a number of other factors continue to threaten the habitat, particularly on smaller sites.

  • Fragmentation and small total area of the habitat, due to past land-drainage and agricultural intensification
  • Lack of appropriate management leading to accumulation of plant material and scrub development.
  • Potential loss of reedbeds in coastal areas due to sea-level rise, increased coastal flooding and possible future realignment of the coast.

Current Action

  • There is positive management of reedbeds on reserves managed by English Nature, Kent Wildlife Trust and RSPB. This includes major reedbed recreation schemes, for example at Stodmarsh NNR.
  • Work by English Nature includes management and enhancement reedbed habitat within the Stodmarsh and Preston Marshes SSSIs.
  • Some large-scale restoration programmes are under way on Romney Marsh. Romney Marsh Countryside Project provides advice and support to landowners, including encouraging positive management of reedbeds.
  • Some reedbed management is currently being funded through agri-environment schemes in Kent. Draft options for Higher Level Stewardship include options for maintenance, restoration or creation of reedbed.


  1. Maintain the current extent of all existing Reedbeds.

  2. Secure the appropriate conservation management of existing Lowland Fen.

  3. Establish two new landscape-scale, freshwater wetland complexes, one in East Kent and one in West Kent, which include between them at least 35ha of Reedbeds along other wetland types.

  4. Support other schemes for major reedbed creation where this will support the UK Species Action Plan for bittern.

Relevant Habitat Action Plans

The relevant UK Habitat Action Plans:

The relevant UK Species Action Plans:

The relevant Kent Habitat Action Plans:

  • Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh
  • Lowland fen
  • Standing open water