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Upper Spey River Restoration Project

    This project was supported by the NatureScot Nature Restoration Fund.

    In remote Glenshero on the western margins of the Spey catchment, the upper Spey runs for around 18km until it reaches Spey Dam near Laggan. This project looked to improve habitat for the benefit of all wildlife in and around this important part of the river, and especially to make conditions as favourable as possible for breeding salmon and trout, whilst also helping to increase resilience to the effects of climate change.

    In 2022, 65 Large Woody Structures (LWS) were installed along around 5km of the upper Spey to encourage formation of more complex, diverse physical structure and higher quality in-channel habitat. Deadwood is a crucial element of functioning river systems, and LWS can be used to mimic natural deadwood until new native woodland can be created along the river banks.

    The LWS are reintroducing varied flow patterns in the river, and especially in high flows we are seeing rapid formation of gravel bars and deeper pools around the structures. These provide much more types of habitat than the fairly uniform channel which characterised this part of the river previously, supporting not just fish but also the insect and microbial life which the whole food chain depends on. As the wood slowly breaks down it adds organic nutrients into the system which are often at artificially low levels in unvegetated upland rivers like this one.

    Because of rising peak air temperatures, bare, unshaded rivers such as the upper Spey are vulnerable to high water temperatures which threaten fish and other aquatic life. Climate change is also causing more frequent and severe flood and drought events. The shelter and deep pools created around the LWS provide valuable refuges for wildlife to escape extreme conditions and survive getting overheated or washed out.

    Learn more about this project

    Deep dive into this project by downloading the full project report below.