A team of volunteers from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) Aberdeen office has spent the day cutting lengths of willow to be transplanted far up the River Dee catchment in support of the Pearls in Peril project – a UK wide project to safeguard internationally important populations of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), one of the world’s most endangered molluscs.
Under the guidance of Calum Hislop, River Officer of the River Dee Trust, the eight volunteers from SSEN’s transmission division used their ‘Be the Difference’ day to cut dense stands of willow downstream of the Bridge of Dee in Aberdeen into lengths ready to be planted upstream of Braemar. The ‘Be the Difference’ programme gives every employee the opportunity to offer a day of their time to a community or charity cause of their choice.
Calum explained: "The cuttings have been prepared so that they can be inserted directly into the ground close to the river edges far up the River Dee catchment to form new areas of riparian woodland. It is hoped that each of the cuttings will grow back into a full sized tree and will create new areas of shade which will provide cooler regulated water temperatures suitable for freshwater pearl mussels and fish, countering the harmful effects of climate change on those species.
"Woody material and leaf litter from the willow will eventually fall into the river creating new instream habitats and helping to develop a healthy freshwater ecosystem. The willow, as well as naturally stabilising the riverbanks, will also create fantastic corridors and shelters for other wildlife associated with the river including birds and otters and we would like to thank the team from SSEN for taking a day out from their normal working activities to support the Pearls in Peril project."
By the end of the day it was estimated that around 1,000 cuttings had been prepared ready for planting and it is hoped that up to an additional 1,000 trees could be grown from longer lengths of material taken away by the River Dee Trust for further processing.
Alistair Watson, Environmental Advisor for SSEN, said: "It was great to spend the day helping such worthwhile environmental cause in the local community. This demonstrates the dynamic capabilities of our team who put down their electricity transmission project work for a day and braved the elements to support a ‘green engineering’ solution to improve riverbanks for some of Scotland’s most special wildlife.
"This will also help to mitigate a variety of environmental problems associated with climate change and it was great to be involved in a project which has so many positive environmental impacts."