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A scenic view of Scotland
A scenic view of Scotland

The Flow Country Rivers Trust is protecting aquatic ecosystems

The Flow Country Rivers Trust is undertaking an important leap in tracking the health and habitats of rivers in Northern Scotland.

This scientific project will create new data sets for a range of waterways and will contribute towards the protection of aquatic ecosystems in the region.  


The Flow Country Rivers Trust was established in 2014 and is a Registered Charity and Company limited by guarantee. The primary aim of the charity is to advance for public benefit the conservation and enhancement of native freshwater fish (including migratory salmonids) and their environments within the Flow Country of Caithness and Eastern Sutherland. Service provision includes river temperature logging, chemical analysis of stream water, electrofishing surveys and educational projects for volunteers and the local community. Operating from Keiss, near Wick, the area within the remit of the Trust covers 150km of coastline, 12 salmon rivers and hundreds of brown trout lochs, including Loch Watten.  


In 2021, the Trust was awarded a grant of £10,070.00 under the Wild Salmonid Support Fund. The grant is enabling the organisation to extend survey work on macroinvertebrates to 10 disparate rivers in the Trust area. As indicator species, the analysis is part of a long-term initiative to measure stream health and habitat for wild salmonid populations. The Flow Country is an area of high ecological importance with the most intact and extensive blanket bog system in the world. Waterways are in near pristine condition and home to an interesting range of species. By building up high-quality data across 10 locations, the Trust feels that the project has the potential to increase understanding of local ecosystems and help safeguard riverine environments before the full effects of climate change begin to take hold.  

In order to assess the state of the rivers, benchmarking of designated sites started in autumn 2021. Samples were taken across 10 rivers and these are now being analysed by professional stream ecologists who will provide formal benchmark results and feedback in early 2022. To assist the Trust in follow-on activity, 10 local volunteers received training on the sampling and identification of stream macroinvertebrates. This educational element of the project has provided a much-needed boost to the capacity of the Trust and will ensure that volunteers will be able to undertake sampling and species identification for future projects.  

<p>The team collecting samples from sites on Dunbeath Water.</p>

The team collecting samples from sites on Dunbeath Water.


Project activities will continue during spring 2022 but it is already clear that this initiative has gone some way in taking early action to monitor the effects of a warming climate. The data gathered on this project will act as an important marker when assessing the future conditions of rivers and whilst the impending climate emergency cannot be eliminated in Scotland, approaches like this could help shape climate action in the region for the next generation.