Failing to reinstate rivers will put communities at 'catastrophic risk'

Conservationists in Scotland say work must be done now to restore rivers and re-connect them with their floodplains.

Wetlands across the world are disappearing three times faster than forests, according to rewilding charity Scotland: The Big Picture.

Conservationists say work must be done now to restore rivers and re-connect them with their floodplains.

They warn that failing to reinstate rivers will put more communities at risk of catastrophic flooding, while some wildlife could lose their habitats.

Visiting the Beltie Burn in Aberdeenshire, Susan Cooksley from the Dee Catchment Partnership told STV News how the river was once straight and narrow, full of silt, and not suitable for much wildlife.

But since 2024 the team at the Burn have “rewiggled” the burn to reconnect it with its floodplain.

Ms Cooksley said: “Rivers are an integral part of the Scottish landscape. You think of an iconic Scottish landscape, whether it’s lowland or highland, in my mind there’s always a river in it.”

Peter Cairns, who fronts Scotland: The Big Picture, says the time is now to reconnect rivers with their floodplains.

He said: “I think we have to acknowledge what science is telling us and it is telling us that climate breakdown is biting harder and harder – certainly in the last decade or so we are seeing more storms, more extreme storms, more rainfall, wilder temperatures, more volatile temperatures.

“So you can only conclude that climate breakdown is here and is going to be the new normal.

“Our rivers are being asked to cope with more and more water flowing in them and that’s why we need to reconnect them with their floodplains, to do what the floodplains are designed to do.”

Ms Cooksley cautioned that reconnecting rivers with their floodplains won’t stop extreme storms like the ones seen in the North East over the winter, including in Brechin.

However, she says rewilding would lessen their devastating impact.

She added: “We’ve gone form one habitat to hundreds (at the Beltie Burn), we’ve got pond areas, we’ve got fast-flowing areas, we’ve got things like this rocky bit of riverbank, we’ve got all the vegetation and we have the floodplain area too.

“So, the more habitat you create, the more homes you have for nature.”

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