Why Riverbank Woodlands?
Scotland is predicted to have hotter, drier summers and wetter, milder winters in the future. Shallow, wide burns in the upper catchments of Highland river basins are likely to experience relatively more severe increases in water temperature when compared to other regions. Streams aligned north-south lacking in shade from native riparian trees are most vulnerable to warming temperatures, with juvenile Atlantic Salmon experiencing significant stress when water temperatures rise above 23°C.
Trout temperature thresholds are even more sensitive than those of Atlantic Salmon. Increasing temperatures are already damaging invertebrate communities, thereby reducing the availability of food for juvenile fish. The Kyle of Sutherland rivers are also home to critical populations of Freshwater Pearl Mussel and the UK Met Office predicts that severe heatwaves will occur every other year by 2050 if current climate trends continue.
Due to a range of pressures, Scotland has lost more than 95% of its former native woodland cover in recent centauries. Further, according to the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland, more than 60% of our remaining native woodland habitat is significantly impacted by herbivores, preventing natural regeneration.
Native riverbank woodland provides shade and helps to keep rivers cool during hot summers. As well as supporting Atlantic salmon and trout, riparian trees can also support invertebrates, bats, otters and many bird species. The Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust is aiming to encourage and deliver riparian planting schemes, under a nationwide 'Riverwoods' initiative.
The key purpose of Riverwoods is to create a network of riparian woodland and healthy river systems throughout Scotland, which will deliver a range of benefits including flood protection, improved water quality and improvements for threatened fish populations, as well as helping to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.