Native riparian trees have been planted along 2.7km of riverbank on the River Oykel Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The SAC is primarily designated for freshwater pearl mussels, with Atlantic salmon as a qualifying feature. Mass fish kill events have been documented on two previous occasions at this site during summer heatwaves.
Alder, grey willow, goat willow, downy birch and hazel were planted, mimicking neighboring woodlands, to create diverse habitat and dappled shade in future. Natural regeneration of riverbank woodlands was in the past hindered by excessive deer browsing therefore Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust have employed a deer manager to protect the planted trees from damage and to allow further woodland expansion via natural regeneration.
As with our restoration on the River Tirry, we worked closely together with Scottish Forestry and RSPB to plant using a low density ‘clumped’ design, providing naturalistic flight pathways for birds. Areas of deep peat were surveyed and left unplanted with planting delivered by contractors, Alexander Forestry.
The project was delivered on land owned by Upper Oykel Fishings Limited and funded by Mossy Earth and Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust. A donation of tree guards was also gratefully received from The Woodland Trust. Work is underway to scope out further options for restoration downstream with landowner Upper Oykel Fishings Limited and upstream with owner Benmore Estate.