Funding boost for nature and climate adaptation in Deeside

Large-scale conservation work across the Dee catchment has been given the green light thanks to a major cash injection of over half a million pounds.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 8:24 am
The restored Garbh Alt tributary in the upper catchment, where the river has been re-connected with its floodplain through the creation of a naturalised alluvial fan.

A variety of projects comprising floodplain restoration, woodland expansion and peatland restoration will benefit both people and nature, boosting the region’s resilience to climate change, while improving habitats for biodiversity.

As part of a network of 22 projects across the Cairngorms National Park totalling some £43 million of funding from several sources including the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Government, the work in the Dee, Spey and Esk catchments will comprise a two-year development phase followed by a five-year delivery phase of action on the ground.

Susan Cooksley, Dee Catchment Partnership manager and freshwater ecologist with the James Hutton Institute, will be spending a substantial part of her working week on the river restoration projects, managing the river and its tributaries to reinstate natural processes that will restore biodiversity, for the benefit of people and wildlife.

The restored 're-meandered' Beltie burn near Torphins.j

Susan said: “We’ve been proud to undertake some great restoration work recently at the Easter Beltie near Torphins, and on the Muick higher up the valley, and this funding will enable even more extensive, landscape-scale restoration.

“The Dee is recognised the world over as an important habitat for Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel and otter, and is a designated Special Area of Conservation specifically to protect these populations. But species such as salmon and the pearl mussel are now significantly diminished in the river, so restoration projects like re-meandering the Easter Beltie – which brought rapid recovery for salmon at a local scale and will have extensive benefits further downstream – are more important than ever.”

The funding will enable a variety of restoration activities in the Dee catchment, including reuniting areas of the river with its floodplain to reduce flood risk. The Dee valley will also benefit from the £17 million of woodland expansion and peatland restoration planned for the Park delivering an additional 5,000 hectares of hill and riverside trees and restoring 4,625 hectares of peatland.

Rebekka Artz, senior research scientist at the James Hutton Institute, said: “Damaged peatlands contribute significant greenhouse gas emissions, and add particulate and dissolved carbon to rivers. These effects are worsened during periods of warmer weather and drought.

Braemar to Linn Of Dee in the upper Dee catchment.

“My colleagues and I are monitoring these emissions from eroded peatlands in the upper Dee catchment, as well as the hydrology, before and after restoration work on the peatlands, to test whether restoration reduces carbon emissions and restores hydrological functioning.”

Sally Mackenzie, conservation officer for the Cairngorms National Park, is delighted funding has been secured for Deeside.

She added: “It’s vital that these funding opportunities continue so we can build on all the great work done so far, and help to create a climate-resilient National Park that serves the needs of both people and nature.”

The Dee's source at Braeriach, high on the Cairngorm plateua.