A conservation charity has announced plans to plant a million native trees in one of the biggest nature restoration projects in the Cairngorms.
The scheme will recreate areas of landscape that have been lost for 2000 years.
The trees will help prevent a repetition of the high river temperatures which damaged young salmon stocks on the Upper Dee two years ago.
They will provide nutrition and shelter for all river species and they will encourage a wide range of wildlife to thrive in one of Scotland’s most stunning landscapes.
The £5.5 million project is being led by the conservation charity the River Dee Trust, with the support of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, and is the subject of a new fundraising campaign.
River Dee director Dr Lorraine Hawkins said: “Atlantic salmon are now virtually extinct across their southern European range and are vanishing fast in the south of England. All the major Scottish salmon rivers have seen drastic declines.
“At current rates, we may have just 20 years to save the species.
“We know there are catastrophic losses at sea. Those factors must be tackled urgently. But we can take action now to give the young fish their best chance of survival before leaving their native rivers.
“Several current projects should produce immediate benefits. But we must also provide shade against more of the extreme temperatures we have been told to expect, while restoring a whole ecosystem that’s been degraded over many centuries.
“This will help our threatened salmon, and all wildlife will benefit.
“Of all the major Scottish rivers, the Dee is especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures because of its land use. We are determined to do everything we can to help nature help itself.”
The River Dee Trust and Dee District Salmon Fishery Board have already planted nearly 200,000 native trees along tributaries, working together with landowners including those on the Balmoral and Invercauld estates.
The aim is to double the current rate of planting and reach the million-tree target within 15 years.
The main species are alder, willow, rowan, birch, aspen and Scots pine, which would have been common in the landscape thousands of years ago.
Angling in the River Dee generates around £15 million annually in revenues and supports an estimated 500 rural jobs.
Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett praised the initiative.
Mr Burnett, the Scottish Parliament’s species champion for freshwater pearl mussels, which are present from the River Dee’s source in the Cairngorms, said: “This ambitious project mirrors the truly holistic nature of land management in the Cairngorms and along the Dee.
“Treating the river and its surroundings as one living, breathing thing will protect its ecology for future generations.
“Helping Atlantic salmon will have major environmental and economic impact.
“Landowners, the trust and salmon board have to be commended for the 200,000 trees they have already planted.”
The announcement was made in the build-up to the opening of the River Dee salmon fishing season this Saturday.
The ceremony will be performed by the actor, singer and celebrity angler Robson Green.