Protecting the River South Esk Catchment

Published on Tuesday 6 February 2018

Fresh opportunities and challenges for the health and vitality of the River South Esk Catchment will be captured as part of an upcoming Angus-wide consultation and new catchment management plan.

The 2018 plan continues the good work of the River South Esk Catchment Partnership that has just published its 2017 catchment management plan review. Highlighting the project work carried out on the initial plan between 2010—17, it was presented to our Policy and Resources Committee recently.

The partnership has a shared purpose to deliver an integrated approach to the sustainable management of the catchment, to exchange information and explore ways of managing the area to the benefit of its communities, economy and environment, while taking account of practices and cultures of the area. It brings together partners including Angus Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Esk District Salmon Fishery Board & Esk Fisheries Trust, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, Littlewood Land Care, The James Hutton Institute, NFU Scotland, Scottish Agricultural College, SEPA, Montrose Port Authority, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

The River South Esk Catchment takes in the area of land drained by the River South Esk and its tributaries. This includes its lochs, groundwaters, wetlands and the unique enclosed estuary of Montrose Basin. The area is very important to Angus and beyond, providing livelihoods in farming, forestry, fisheries and tourism, and also for recreation as well as being a supply of private drinking water. It is a habitat of great value for wildlife. Being of such importance for nature conservation, the River South Esk has - under the European Habitats Directive - been designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its populations of Atlantic salmon and freshwater pearl mussel.

The partnership’s 2017 report highlights the progress made towards delivering the Partnership’s Catchment Management Plan, with more than 90% of the plan’s actions being delivered by their steering group, of which Angus Council is a founding member. Key achievements since 2010 cover issues such as water quality; water resources; managing floods; river engineering; improving and protecting habitats and species; and enhancing socio-economic opportunities.

Proactive partnership work has seen water quality in the catchment improved and pollution reduced; more than 27,000 trees planted in catchment and 130-kilometres of banks protected against pollution by buffer-strip fencing. In all, more than 8000-metres of river restoration has been carried out throughout the catchment in both its upland areas and its arable lower reaches.

River engineering, such as that carried out on the Rottal Burn at Glen Clova aimed to increase the watercourse’s ability to support viable populations of salmon and trout and increase its general biodiversity value. It included the restoration of a 650-metre straightened channel and the creation of a new 1,200-metre meandering channel. Slowing the flow from the Rottal Burn into the South Esk main stem acted as a climate change adaptation measure.

River South Esk Catchment
From left: Tony Andrews, RSECP chair; Kelly Ann Dempsey, RSECP Prog Mgr; Dee Ward, Rottal Ests; Craig MacIntyre, Esk R&FT

Invasive, Non-native species control has included the spraying of 180,000 square metres of Giant hogweed and 14,500 square metres of Japanese knotweed. American mink are also monitored and controlled in the catchment to protect native wildlife, such as water voles, ground nesting birds and economically important populations of salmon and game birds.

The partnership’s new plan will complement and feed into existing partner’s objectives, including Angus Council strategies and will aim to deliver projects in -

  • Climate Change adaptation;
  • Community resilience;
  • Woodland creation;
  • Volunteering & citizen science;
  • Economic development; and
  • Angling & wildlife tourism;

Lessons learned in the River South Esk catchment are transferable, and can be applied to other catchments in Angus. A landscape or catchment scale approach is central to many Angus Council and Scottish Government policies and strategies, including the Tayside Local Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-26

You can go to their website to find out more about the RSECP or email info@theriversouthesk.org with any enquiries.