Riverwoods: Catchment Restoration

The Kyle of Sutherland Catchment is Deteriorating

Scotland has lost 97% of its original native forest. Many river catchments that would have once been covered with a rich mix of pine, willow, downy birch, rowan and alder have been stripped, leaving the riverbanks bare, exposed and less resilient.

This has impacted the rivers’ health, making them more susceptible to drought and flooding caused by climate change, and reducing their ability to provide a home for wild Atlantic salmon, trout, and freshwater pearl mussels. Temperatures as high as 26 degrees Celsius are now regularly recorded in these Highland headwaters, causing thermal stress and even death of fish at all stages in their life cycle.

To save the salmon from regional extinction, it is critical that we act now to restore the river catchment ecosystem.

Watch the full film
riverwoods: A salmon's journey

Tells the compelling story of the inextricable relationship between fish and forest.
watch the film here

An ecosystem approach to restoration

If we’re to ensure Scotland still has salmon in the future, we have to ensure that whole river catchments are healthy.

Much of the native Caledonian Forest of Scots pine, willow, downy birch, rowan, and many other species, has been lost. Without vegetation stabilising the soil and intercepting the flow of water, floods and droughts are more likely, reducing the rivers’ ability to support the huge salmon runs that once flourished. Without the cooling shade that trees provide on riverbanks, temperatures in rivers in the Highlands are reaching critical levels for Atlantic salmon, trout and freshwater pearl mussels. Key to saving these iconic species is restoring the function of the ecosystems they form an essential part of.

By taking a catchment-scale approach to river health, we can restore their natural ecology, boost biodiversity, sequester carbon, and benefit communities.

Woodland shades rivers in hot summers. This helps salmon grow and develop. Roots and deadfall provide refuge for young salmon, while organic matter adds nutrients to the system, supporting more invertebrates that sustain a balanced ecosystem. Carbon is drawn in from the atmosphere as the trees grow and soil condition improves. The ecosystem becomes more complex and biodiverse, while trees slow the flow of rain from headwaters, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. The improvement in salmon and trout numbers supports a sustainable economy, enjoyed by local people and visitors from across the world.

Project focus

Reinstating a mosaic of functional, interconnected freshwater and terrestrial habitats
5 key rivers of the Kyle catchment: Carron, Oykel, Shin, Cassley, Evelix
Biodiversity monitoring of restoration work, particularly salmonids

"No one species exists in isolation. It all forms part of a deeply interconnected web"

Duncan Pepper
Salmon fisherman and ecologist

Support the Vision

The Kyle Riverwoods initiative aims to mitigate the impact of climate change and reverse the loss of biodiversity across the catchment ecosystem. 

We are working to reinstate a mosaic of habitats across the Kyle of Sutherland region, focusing on 200km of high priority river systems across the Carron, Shin, Cassley, Evelix and Oykel rivers. Together with the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust, we are working with landowners and proprietors, to take a landscape scale approach to ecosystem restoration, coordinating a range of different projects across the catchment and drawing in funding from government, corporate sponsors and individuals. Our ambition is to develop lasting partnerships, and involve the community, to take the urgently necessary action to prevent the loss of our iconic species, by delivering resilient, restored rivers, that also support a thriving rural economy. We hope that this initiative will serve as a model that can be replicated across Scotland to address the climate and biodiversity crises, for nature and people.
Please contact TENT's Conservation Manager if you would like to support the work – we are looking to partner with landowners, and develop funding relationships with those in a position to help us scale the work.
Jacob Dykes, jacob@theeuropeannaturetrust.com
Explore the kyle restoration work so far

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