With over 125,000km of rivers and streams, wherever you are in Scotland, you’ll be close to a river.

River woodlands – the trees and woods in, next to and near rivers, burns and lochs – are vital for creating and maintaining healthy rivers and are biologically rich areas that provide a link between land and water. They are the green arteries of our ecosystem. 

The impact of human activity has caused declines in the extent of river woodlands, eroding their ability to provide a wide range of benefits. Agricultural intensification, urban development, overgrazing and inappropriate afforestation have all contributed to this loss.   

We want to work with communities to re-engage them with their rivers. We want to support land managers to make the best decisions to benefit this habitat. We want to see Scotland’s river woodlands better connected to each other, better able to deal with the impacts of climate change and providing our communities, farms and industries with cool, clean water. We want them to be beautiful, biodiverse habitats that we can all enjoy. 

Creating a network of thriving river woodlands across Scotland is an ambitious aim for the Riverwoods initiative, but one that will bring enormous benefits. By protecting these habitats, we can work to protect people’s livelihoods and wellbeing, tackle the escalating?climate crisis, and stop the collapse of biodiversity. 

The need for transformative change

Society is facing big environmental challenges which call for big responses. The UN has designated 2021-2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in recognition of the scale of action required to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Riverwoods will rise to the challenge by seeking to deliver change at a Scotland-wide scale. Making our habitats and wildlife more connected will help make them more resilient, in turn ensuring they are capable of delivering the essential benefits upon which our wildlife, economy and wellbeing depend.


The key purpose of the Riverwoods initiative is to create a network of riparian woodland and healthy river systems throughout Scotland, which will deliver a range of benefits including flood protection, improved water quality and improvements for salmon fisheries, as well as helping to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Many organisations and landowners are already undertaking river restoration projects, and Riverwoods will provide an opportunity to help join these up across Scotland. We will collectively share knowledge of the science underpinning riparian restoration, support landowners to carry out practical work, identify and address evidence gaps, showcase best practice and explore novel forms of financing to enable riparian restoration to be carried out at scale.

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Learn more about the Riverwoods initiative on our interactive storymap.

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  • A wide range of partners supported to deliver Riverwoods projects
  • A variety of traditional and innovative funding mechanisms available for Riverwoods
  • A blueprint for Scotland-wide delivery, underpinned by strong evidence and open data
  • A Centre of Excellence promoting knowledge exchange from existing leaders

Why are these woodlands special?

Native trees next to rivers, streams and lochs – otherwise known as river woodlands – perform a range of vital functions. They help maintain the health and productivity of rivers and burns; they protect riverbanks, control erosion, capture and recycle mineral nutrients, increase biodiversity and filter pollutants. River woodlands have enormous potential to positively contribute to re-joining fragmented habitat networks as they create long and sinuous corridors, interconnecting across the landscape, along which species can travel. The connectivity provided by these corridors makes the species which live in and alongside our rivers more resilient to impacts of climatic change by being able to move through the landscape. Healthy river woodlands also help regulate water flows, shade rivers to reduce water temperature and help re-establish a diverse, complex and beautiful habitat. 

Which species benefit?

The so-called ‘riparian zone’ contains hugely valuable habitats that support many of Scotland’s most iconic species including ospreys, white-tailed eagles, otters and Atlantic salmon.

A myriad of invertebrate, bird and bat species can also be found, creating a truly biodiverse ecosystem.