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Tarland burn to be re-designed for nature and climate change

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A first step in potentially restoring a degraded watercourse in Deeside has been given the green light thanks to an £84,000 funding boost from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, managed by NatureScot.

The Tarland Burn, which flows into the River Dee at Aboyne, is classified as having ecologically low status due to its water quality, shape of beds and banks, and disconnection from the surrounding floodplain.

The burn, once part of one of the largest most complex wetlands on Deeside, has been the subject of ongoing research and monitoring by The James Hutton Institute for nearly 20 years.

Now, a new project could see a 4 km stretch of the burn redesigned in order to regenerate it, bringing a raft of benefits for nature and the region’s resilience to climate change. 

Initially, the collaboration between the Tarland Development Group, the Dee Catchment Partnership(on which the Hutton is a partner), RSPBand The MacRobert Trust Estate, will see the development of a nature-based design for the scheme.

A new project to re-design a 4 km stretch of the Tarland burn aims to regenerate it, bringing a raft of benefits for nature and the region’s resilience to climate change. PHOTOS CREDIT: Richard Humpidge, RSPB.

Reinstating ghost wetlands, degraded watercourses

The Dee Catchment Partnership’s Manager, Dr Susan Cooksley, who is based at The James Hutton Institute where she is a catchment scientist, explains: “Across North East Scotland, centuries of drainage and realignment have created high quality agricultural land, but over time this has resulted in thousands of burns that are incredibly poor for nature, promote flooding and degrade habitats for many kilometres downstream.

“Former floodplains were once essential parts of the river system, storing water and carbon, and providing rich habitats for wildlife. These ghost wetlands need to be reinstated wherever possible as a vital part of building climate resilience and reversing the biodiversity crisis.

“The Tarland Burn is part of the River Dee Special Area of Conservation, internationally recognised for populations of otter, freshwater pearl mussel and Atlantic salmon, and should be supporting all these special species, not furthering their decline. This is perfectly achievable within a working landscape – it’s not a choice between agriculture or environment.

“We are working with cbec eco-engineeringto produce design options that could allow the river to reconnect with the floodplain once again. Options may include re-meandering, placement of large woody structures and the creation of wetlands and ponds,” continues Dr Cooksley. “A design that will boost habitats for wildlife and mitigate the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon and storing water, all within a thriving landscape that people can enjoy.”  

The Hutton studies hydrology, water quality and ecology at a catchment scale in the Tarland catchment. The institute has four automated monitoring stations along the Tarland Burn, which have been in place for more than 12 years. These help. help to underpin the evaluation natural flood management techniques through monitoring and modelling.

Kathy Dale, Chair of Tarland Wetlands Group, says: “To restore this section of the Tarland Burn and its floodplain, we’ll need to work with the river’s natural processes, to design a watercourse that can develop within the context of the wider catchment. We’ll focus on low-maintenance designs that are sympathetic to local aesthetics and the agricultural surroundings,and offer opportunities for community amenity.” 

A community drop-in event on the proposed design options will be held in Tarland on Thursday 30 March, 2pm-8pm, in the Upper Hall of The MacRobert Hall. 

New path added to Easter Beltie river restoration

The results of a separate project, the Easter Beltie river restoration, led by the Dee Catchment Partnership through The James Hutton Institute, are also continuing to make their impact felt, via a new 1.5 km path alongside the restored river, from a new car park at Easter Beltie to the Black Linn Burn at Dam Wood.

The path has been created by the Torphins Paths Group, a Deeside charity focused on improving and developing walking and cycling access in the local area, which aims to extend the path so that it connects Torphins and Banchory.

Funded by an Improving Public Access grant of £58,000 from the Scottish Rural Development Programme Agri-Environment Climate Schemeand supplemented by £8,000 of funding from Torphins Paths Group, the 2 m-wide wide, multi-user path is already proving popular with locals and visitors alike.

“We’re delighted to have the first section of this path now in place here at Easter Beltie,” says Chair of Torphins Paths Group, Will Maclean. “The route offers a great opportunity for walking, cycling, running and horse riding through the tranquil setting of the re-meandered Beltie burn, and we’re looking forward to developing the path eastwards as part of a planned 10km route between Torphins and Banchory.  Users are urged to always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to ensure safe and pleasurable access for all.”

Signage, benches and fencing along the route have been installed by the Group, with information panels on the burn’s restoration due to be added soon by the Dee Catchment Partnership, who managed the £180,000 three-month rewilding project to boost the region’s biodiversity and resilience to climate change in 2020, funded by the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund.

Will Maclean, Chair of the Torphins Paths Group front centre, Dr Susan Cooksley, Manager of the Dee Catchment Partnership front left, Bert McIntosh, McIntosh Plant Hire (Abdn) Ltd front right, with TPG Volunteers behind, celebrate the newly opened path by the Easter Beltie burn.

A thriving river habitat

“We want people to enjoy this special place responsibly, so it’s fantastic to have this route in place,” says Dr Cooksley. “The burn and surrounding wetlands have really come into their own since the site was restored two and a half years ago, with a host of habitats and species now thriving here, so we urge people to keep dogs on a lead and be mindful of wildlife – taking only photos and leaving only footprints.”

The Torphins Paths Group has secured permission for the next section of path which will provide a formal bridge at the Black Linn Burn and a route traversing the northwest side of Dam Wood. The opportunity is to return through the woodland area, or make a safe exit at a new layby to be built on the Glassel road opposite the Kynoch Plantation area.

“The section from Torphins to Easter Beltie is agreed with several landowners in principle and negotiations continue with one remaining owner,” explains Maclean. “Beyond Dam Wood the route from Glassel road to West Brathens is being planned. From there to Banchory there’s a firm practical route identified in the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland feasibility study we commissioned in 2017 with EU Leader and Aberdeenshire funding.”

Established in 2003, the Dee Catchment Partnership represents and supports those with responsibilities for water management in the common aim of restoring habitat and water quality in the River Dee catchment. The rganization has secured funding for significant restoration work, including £10 million in Deeside restoration projects since 2003. The partners within the group are: The James Hutton Institute, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Harbour Board, River Dee Trust, Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, Scottish Forestry, and NatureScot.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author(s), and not an official position of the institute or funder.



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Printed from /blogs/tarland-burn-be-re-designed-nature-and-climate-change on 27/09/23 10:34:44 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.