Biodiversity is special and uniquely accessible. Visit any patch of land or water and it’s literally teaming with life. Our native wildlife comes in many shapes and sizes and its presence is not always obvious. But it is out there in our parks and gardens, farmland, woodland, boggy areas, rivers and ponds, in our seas, in our soil and on the highest mountains.
The terrestrial habitats of Wales supports a rich variety of flora and fauna and includes many species found in Britain and species unique to Wales. The Radnor lily (Gagea bohemica) and spotted rock-rose (Tuberaria guttataare) not found on the British mainland outside of Wales. In the upland region of Snowdonia in north Wales, artic-alpine flora thrive including the Snowdon lily (Lloydia serotina), a species in Britain confined to cool, north-facing slopes in Snowdonia.
Mynydd Mawr in Carmarthenshire is one of the remaining strongholds of the Marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia), while the Great Orme in North Wales is one of the best places in Britain to see the Silver-studded blue, here represented by the unique subspieces caernensis.
The varied geology and temperate climate of Wales enable an abundance of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), lichens and fungi to thrive and Wales supports a higher species abundance in comparison to other European countries.
In marine terms, Wales is situated at the boundary of three oceanic climate zones and is rich in marine life and with a large tidal range, intertidal habitats support a diversity of plants and animals. Seals, dolphins, sharks, jellyfish, crabs and lobsters are all found around the Welsh coast. The seabird colonies of Skomer, Skokholm, Bardsey and Grassholm are spectacular and are important internationally.
Wales has 21 Special Protection Areas for vulnerable birds and 92 Special Areas of Conservation for other rare species and threatened natural habitats. Together they are known as Natura 2000 sites, and along with areas across Europe, they form an unparalleled conservation network of international importance for wildlife. Wales’ Natura 2000 network covers more than 700,000 hectares (7% of Welsh land area and 36% of territorial waters).
National Nature Reserves are exceptional examples of wildlife habitats and geological features. There are 72 National Nature Reserves in Wales, protecting over 25,000 ha of land and 1 Marine Nature Reserve, covering over 1,000 ha of sea in Wales.
Why not visit a national nature reserve?
Here are a few ideas:
Snowdonia –home to artic-alpine and other rare plants.
Morfa Harlech & Morfa Dyffryn-part of a sand dunes system that sweeps from the Mawddach estuary along the shore of Cardigan Bay. A beautiful place to visit and with nationally scarce plant and invertebrate species.
Cors Caron peat bogs in Ceredigion, with plants that are adapted to the acidic conditions such as sun-dews, bog rosemary and cotton grasses.
Gower coast- managed by the National Trust, Worm's Head tidal island and limestone cliffs are rich in plant life particularly in in late spring and early summer. Breeding birds include kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and, occasionally, peregrines and choughs.Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire – an island jewel with rich marine live and spectacular seabird colonies.
National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in Wales offer recreation, relaxation, stunning landscapes and wildlife interest. They are living, working landscapes with active rural communities.
Wales has 3 National Parks -Snowdonia; Brecon Beacons & Pembrokeshire Coast and 5 AONBs- Anglesey, Clwydian Range, Gower, Llŷn and shares an AONB with England - Wye Valley
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) have natural features that are of special interest to their local area and offer people opportunities to study, learn or enjoy nature. Many local authorities have designated LNRs. There are over 65 LNRs in Wales offering opportunities for both people and wildlife.
Loggerheads Country Park, near Mold
Loggerheads Country Park is an established Rural Country Park set in a limestone valley in the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It encompasses a mining and tourism history. The Park is also managed for conservation with rich and varied natural habitats.
Cosmeston Lakes County Park, near Penarth
Cosmeston Lakes country park has a variety of habitats covering over 100 hectares of land and water, and a diverse range of plant and animal species. Cosmeston offers a fine introduction into the countryside and is open all year round. Look out for bearded tits in the winter months and the recenly introdiced water vole.
Croes Robert Wood, near Monmouth
Croes Robert Wood is 14 hectares of traditionally managed ancient semi-natural coppice woodland. Plants typical of ancient woodlands dominate the ground flora. Bluebells, Dogs Mercury, Wood Anemones and Yellow Archangel form carpets of spring colour. Autumn fungus forays like King Alfred's Cakes, Candle Snuff Fungus and The Goblet. Dormouse and badgers are present and there's a chance of seeing nightingale in the summer together with other woodland birds.
Himalayan Balsam - an invasive non-native species
Fen orchid- a Welsh botanical treasure
Fen orchid (Liparis loeselii) is one of the most threatened plants in north-west Europe. The dunes at Kenfig National Nature Reserve near Bridgend are a UK stronghold for the species. The fen orchid has been lost from Whiteford Burrows on Gower and outside of Wales it only occurs on a few sites in East Anglia though the Welsh species is a distinct variarty (var. ovata). A radical programme to support fen orchid at the Kenfig site involves scraping away dune vegetation to create dune slacks- a preferred habitat for the species. The on-going work supported by Welsh Government funds involves Natural Resources Wales, Plantlife and Bridgend County Borough Council and will help secure the future of this threatened species.