Habitats and Species

The natural heritage of the Spey catchment is one of the most environmentally important in the whole of Scotland. Designated for its populations of Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel (FWPM), otter and sea lamprey, the main stem and larger tributaries are also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Riverine wetlands, floodplains and woodland make up a corridor of connected habitat for mammals, birds and insects to move along and thrive. In the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change, ecosystem restoration is now more important than ever to retain this rich resource.

SCI partners have been collaborating to restore, conserve and enhance these habitats and species. The on the ground delivery of river habitat restoration, floodplain reconnection and riparian planting directly benefit species conservation. Prominent examples include the Cairngorms FWPM Project which aims to restore populations to the upper catchment, and Strathspey Wetlands and Waders Initiative which works with landowners to create and improve habitat for waders. Beaver, ecosystem engineers in their own right, have moved up the agenda during the lifetime of the recent CMP and could play a leading role in habitat restoration, but any reintroduction proposal require careful balancing of potential negative impacts.

Examples of key successes from 2017 - 2021:

Freshwater Pearl Mussel survey completed in Upper Spey tributaries

The Cairngorms Freshwater Pearl Mussel Project completed a survey of the Upper Spey tributaries in 2021. These results coupled with a NatureScot Graduate Placement Study and genetic analysis of mussel populations allowing development of a Restoration Strategy.

Cairngorms Beaver Group reinstated

The Cairngorms Beaver Group was reinstated in 2020 to investigate beaver habitat and dam capacity in the CNP. The group (incl many SCI members) is now advising on a CNPA led translocation into the Spey Catchment.

Strathspey group helps protect and enhance wading bird populations

The Strathspey Wetlands & Waders Initiative works with farmers and landowners to improve and create new wader habitat. The Tomintoul & Glenlivet Landscape Project allowed expansion of the target area which has continued. A wader survey takes place every five years. The latest in 2021 showed a 25% decrease since 2015.

Cairngorms Connect project improves landscape and river between Abernethy and Gaick

The Cairngorms Connect Landscape Scale Project includes peatland restoration, woodland creation and river restoration at a range of sites from Abernethy to Gaick.

Invasive species project officer helps contain and remove species from Speyside 

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative Project Officer hosted by SFB 2017-22 focussed on containment and eradication of Giant Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam, White Butterburr and American Mink, using contractors and volunteers. Monitoring of Ranunculus ceased in 2018; it is now considered by some as naturalised.