Biodiversity & Conservation

Phragmites australis swamp and reed beds



Image Harvey Tyler-Walters - Edge of a Phragmites reed bed in February, Tamar Estuary. Image width ca 1 m in foreground.
Image copyright information

Distribution map

SS.IMU.Ang.S4 recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

Text page icon Habitat description

Map icon Distribution of biotope in Britain and Ireland This biotope is widespread in lowland Britain and has a scattered distribution in estuaries and inlets and coastal lagoons around the British Isles. It is recorded from the Tay in east Scotland, south to the Wash, south east England, the Solent, Seven estuary, Gower Peninsula, Cardigan Bay, Morecambe Bay, Solway Firth, and west Scotland.
National importance Scarce

Text page icon Description of biotope

For a full description of this biotope including characterizing species, distribution, survey information and references visit JNCC

Permanently low salinity muds or peaty muddy sands with some gravel which supports Phragmites australis reed beds. These reed beds are often found in enclosed water bodies influenced by freshwater inflow and may have notable quantities of decaying reed material. The substratum may be mixtures of mud, peaty mud, sand and some gravel. Filamentous green algae and charophytes such as Lamprothamnium papulosum and Chara aspera may also be found in association with this biotope as well as a the freshwater quillwort Myriophyllum spp. The infaunal component of this biotope is poorly known. This biotope is further described as NVC S4 (Rodwell, 1995). (Information taken from the Marine Biotope Classification for Britain and Ireland, Version 97.06: Connor et al., 1997a, b).

Additional information icon Additional information

The ecology of Phragmites dominated reed beds has been well studied and has an extensive literature. The following review summarizes some of the major papers, reviews and texts to which the reader should refer for further detail (e.g. Haslam, 1972; Ranwell, 1972; Haslam, 1978; Fuller, 1982; Mook & van der Toorn, 1982; van der Toorn & Mook, 1982; Fojt & Foster, 1992; Ward, 1992; Rodwell, 1995; Hawke & José, 1996). An extensive literature review is given by EUREED (1999). The following review emphasizes information from coastal, estuarine or brackish water habitats.

This review can be cited as follows:

Tyler-Walters, H. 2002. Phragmites australis swamp and reed beds. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25/11/2015]. Available from: <>