Tree Planting Project Will Help Salmon Leap for Joy

New trees cool river waters to assist spawning salmon.

Atlantic salmon jump as they swim upriver to spawn.

(Kevin Wells Photography /

The festive sound of bagpipes officially opened the salmon fishing season in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on February 1, 2022. Conservationists took this opportunity to celebrate tree planting along the River Dee, a campaign that promises to cool the waters and increase the number of spawning salmon.

The River Dee, which empties into the Atlantic from Scotland’s southwestern coast, is one of Scotland’s  most popular fishing rivers, according to The Guardian. Unfortunately, due to climate change, the water temperature has been rising, causing stress to spawning salmon.  

Time to take action
The warmer water has resulted in a decline in salmon, with catches falling by a dramatic 80 percent since 1957. Scientists soon discovered that the water temperature in Scottish rivers was too high for the cold water wild Atlantic salmon.

“These rivers and burns are the nursery grounds for young fish and it’s the young fish which will be affected by summer temperatures – their feeding and growth rates are affected,” Lorraine Hawkins from the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board told The Guardian.

It was time to take action. Back in 2013, the government decided to plant 1 million saplings along the river and its tributaries. These trees will offer cooling shade to the fish and increase wildlife biodiversity from the leaf fall that attracts insects. A forest could also offer protection from flooding.

One quarter of tree-planting goal has been reached
Since this project began, the River Dee Board and Trust, along with fisheries, have planted 250,000 trees, reaching one quarter of their goal, according to EcoWatch. The Scottish government is also implementing an environmental protection plan for the salmon.

The goals are to improve water quality, manage salmon exploitation, control and prevent invasive species, and to protect this species by working with international partners.

The trust and its partners are planting aspen, hawthorn, rowan, juniper, birch, willow, and Scots pine trees, according to The Guardian, and are well on their way to reaching one million trees by 2025.

These cool, shaded river waters promise to be a welcome refuge for spawning salmon. And once the number of salmon has increased, anglers will wade in and cast their fly rods into refreshingly cool waters. And as they reel in their Scottish catch, there just may be a celebratory sound of bagpipes!  

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