A YOUNG Wee County conservationist has already made his mark protecting some of Scotland’s most vulnerable rivers when he was just 22 years old.
Niall Provan, from Clackmannanshire, is part of a selected team working on the Larig Restoration Project, part of the larger River Teith Catchment Project, as part of an initiative to protect Scotland’s rivers from change climate.
The work undertaken aims to improve the Larig River and its surrounding habitat through large-scale tree planting in addition to river and bank restoration work.
Niall got involved after completing a modern apprenticeship with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the Callander Landscape Partnership (CLP) and the Callander Youth Project Trust.
He works as a Project Support Officer with the Forth Rivers Trust with the Larig Restoration Project funded by NatureScot under the Biodiversity Challenge Fund (BCF), and in response to Marine Scotland’s broader initiative to protect rivers from climate change .
Niall said: “I was fortunate enough to get involved in a large scale tree planting and river restoration project on the Larig River near Balquhidder, run by the Forth Rivers Trust.
“The project I am working on aims to improve the biodiversity of the river, as well as to examine the impact of climate change on the fish population of the Larig River.
“So far, I have done river surveys, invertebrate sampling and electrofishing, a technique that allows us to capture and study fish without harming them.
“This project follows on from previous work on the plantation of riparian woodlots on the Larig, in progress since 2019.
“These riparian corridors will provide shade and help cool the water from rising summer temperatures.
“This is important for maintaining a healthy fish population.
“Once the trees reach a more mature height, branches, leaves, litter and even entire trees will fall into the river, providing a supply of nutrients that the river sorely lacks.
“This in turn will result in more invertebrates in the river, which will be eaten by the fish and support their population.”
The work Niall and the team are undertaking will improve the biodiversity of the river and surrounding area while providing shade and refuge for migrating Atlantic salmon, as well as other aquatic species.
Work in the river includes the creation of large woody structures, made up of reused windblown trees, which will provide shade for salmonid species and mimic the natural river processes to create diversity in the flow of the river. River. ”
Indeed, Atlantic salmon populations are currently on the decline, possibly due to pressures such as pollution, overfishing and climate change.
Projects, such as the one Niall is involved in, hope to create sanctuary areas for salmon to spawn and help increase their numbers once again.
Niall added, “Part of our job is to survey each site using drone mapping software. The before and after images will allow us to see the effect that our work had on the banks, on the water flow and the general composition of the river.