Last week we were joined by a great group of volunteers who helped us with tree planting aspect of our Greening the Banks of the Water of Girvan Project, supported by the Nature Restoration Fund, the Landowner and the Girvan DSFB.
With the green engineering and fencing aspects of the project largely complete we’re now turning our attention to planting riparian trees throughout the site. These trees will have a variety of benefits to both aquatic and terrestrial species and habitats. One of our main priorities is reducing water temperatures in coming years as data from the neighbouring River Ayr shows water temperatures routinely climbing into the mid twenties of degrees celsius. These temperatures lead to high stress in fish, with feeding activity much reduced and the fish abandoning their usual feeding territories in search of cooler deeper refuge areas. Shading from the river banks, especially from the midday sun is crucial especially through slower moving pools where the water has greater exposure time to the sun.
There are many other benefits besides shade though, and reductions in erosion to river banks is another key benefit realised by planting trees as the roots help bind the loose alluvial soils together preventing land loss and diffuse pollution. Linking pockets of isolated habitats is another win realised by this work and creating habitat permeability across the landscape is a fundamental aspect to this project. Habitats have become increasingly fragmented in year gone by and we are trying to improve this by linking isolated pockets of woodland. Rivers are often described as the arteries of our landscape and naturally they should be lined with trees providing a habitat for birds, insects and mammalian species.
We were joined by a group from a company called Binnies and Megan who has recently completed a Masters degree in Wildlife Conservation. After some chat about the project and what the project has achieved so far we set about planting trees on one of the recently fenced sections of river bank. With 300 trees planted by the end of the day we were pleased with our efforts and we were blessed with a lovely day on the river. This was a case of third time lucky as we had to postpone our tree planting on two previous occasions due to named storms and frozen ground conditions – we were down to -10oC at times!
With river bank planting like this our approach isn’t to flood an area with nothing but trees, rather maintaining more natural spacings with areas of open ground should ensure that there isn’t adverse competition between trees as they grow and branch out. As the trees develop the open areas should allow for more varied ground flora to develop and this in turn should increase the range of insects that inhabit the area.