A SCHEME to conserve wild salmon by planting trees on river banks has been launched by the River Dee Trust with the support of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board.
The £5.5 million project will involve planting a million native trees in one of the biggest nature restoration projects in the Cairngorms.
The trees will help prevent a repetition of the high river temperatures which damaged young salmon stocks on the Upper Dee two years ago, said the trust.
As well as providing nutrition and shelter for all river species, the trees will encourage a wide range of wildlife to thrive and recreate areas of landscape that have been lost for 2000 years.
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.’
She added: ‘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 announcement is being made in the build up to the opening of the 2020 River Dee salmon fishing season on Saturday, February 1.