Frequently Asked Questions
Riverwoods is an ambitious initiative, launched in early 2019, to create a network of riverbank (riparian) woodlands supporting healthy and resilient river systems across the whole of Scotland.
Native trees next to rivers, streams and lochs – otherwise known as riparian woodland – perform a range of vital functions. First, they provide shade, which helps regulate the temperature of the water, a factor that will become increasingly important due to climate change. Second, they offer vital shelter to wildlife, as well as a valuable food source as leaves and insects fall into the water below. In addition to these key benefits for biodiversity, riparian woodland locks up significant amounts of carbon in vegetation and soil, and soil erosion is prevented as the roots stabilise riverbanks.
Creating habitat – and joining the fragments of remaining good habitat – is essential for wildlife in a rapidly changing climate. Improving the habitat alongside Scotland’s rivers, streams and lochs will substantially contribute to building a much-needed Scottish Nature Network, helping to make Scotland’s wildlife and communities more resilient for the future.
Finally, it is important to note that we want complexity in habitat structure of the riparian zone, including woodlands, wet grasslands, pools and coarse woody debris. We want to see more trees to provide shading and the other multiple benefits of riparian woodland but not at the cost of other priority habitats and species. We need to see the right trees, in the right place, bringing the right benefits. A mapping tool is being developed which will make it possible to ‘exclude’ areas such as known wader habitat or wet tussocky grassland, as well as identifying areas of deep peat.
Riverwoods is an opportunity to contribute to the UN’s Decade of Ecosystem Restoration by taking action to tackle the biodiversity crisis.
Woodlands next to rivers, streams and lochs provide special places where people can relax and enjoy nature. Restoring these habitats can also help to provide communities with greater protection from flooding.
Riverwoods will also be of benefit to many of Scotland’s most iconic species, such as ospreys, white-tailed eagles, otters and Atlantic salmon. A myriad of invertebrate, bird and bat species will benefit too.
Native Scottish trees including oak, ash, alder, birch, hazel, willow, rowan, aspen, wych elm, hawthorn, holly, juniper, elder, wild cherry and Scots pine can all play an important role in the riparian zone.
Riverwoods will deliver a broad range of benefits to the Scottish economy, including specific benefits to certain sectors.
Extreme weather events are becoming more common due to climate change. This means that greater flood resilience will save the Scottish economy significant amounts of money. At the same time, water quality improvements will deliver important reductions in water treatment costs. Meanwhile, vital protection for wildlife will help nature-based businesses such as those in the tourism industry.
More specifically, the water cooling effects delivered by Riverwoods will be particularly important to salmon fisheries and also to the whisky industry. The regulation of water temperature and improvement of water quality will help a wide range of species including many freshwater fish.
Finally, local businesses can benefit from the restoration of the riparian zone, as this can reduce flooding and provide improvements to the natural environment in which their staff live and work.
Riverwoods will play a vital role in the fight against climate change, both by helping mitigate its effects and by helping us adapt to these effects, such as increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
First, Riverwoods will tackle climate change directly by locking away carbon in vegetation and soil. This will make a vital contribution to Scotland’s efforts to reduce emissions.
Second, Riverwoods will increase our resilience to climate change by regulating water temperature and slowing water run-off throughout river catchments. This will help in a variety of important ways, such as reducing flood risk and protecting salmon fisheries.
One of the key aims of Riverwoods is to make it easier for landowners and land managers to carry out riparian restoration activities, and this includes access to finance.
As well as exploring traditional sources of funding, partners involved in Riverwoods will help develop novel forms of financing that will enable action to take place more quickly and on a bigger scale. In practice, this is likely to involve so-called ‘blended finance’ models, which combine support from government and philanthropic sources with capital from private investors.
Riverwoods will break new ground by bringing together a range of partners and stakeholders across Scotland. As the partnership develops we will work collaboratively to ensure, where possible, that projects complement each other and suitable funding sources are identified.
Becoming involved in Riverwoods will be an opportunity to help shape a transformative project, bringing access to knowledge, new partners and new sources of funding.
At the same time, we will be looking to showcase existing projects and activities, giving important profile to exemplars of riparian restoration in Scotland. This will provide an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and achieve additional benefits through collaborative working.