Papercourt Lake has long been designated as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), monitored by Natural England. As one of more than 4000 sites in England that include some of the most spectacular and beautiful habitats, this designation protects the countryside from being lost to development that transformed many natural areas over the last century.
The large meadow to the west of Papercourt Lock, the only one of its type in Surrey, supports a variety of plant life, some quite rare. The three areas of open water, all former gravel workings, have become artificial lakes supporting water flora dominated by the naturalised pondweed Elodea nuttallii, among others.
Woodland birds include great spotted woodpecker, woodcock and nuthatch, while redshank and lapwing breed on the open grasslands. It is one of only three breeding sites left for snipe in Surrey.
The lakes and streams support breeding kingfisher, great-crested and little grebes, as well as sand martin. The site is also important for wintering birds with over 90 species. These include cormorant, black-necked grebe, Slavonian grebe, marsh harrier, and many wildfowl, such as tufted duck, mallard, shoveller, goosander and large numbers of pochard.
SSSI designation at Papercourt requires a high level of responsibility and care of the environment.