There are over 12,500 km of watercourse in the catchment and much of this provides the production powerhouse of the fishery in terms of spawning and nursery areas for juvenile fish. Many of these areas have become degraded over time due to habitat loss, drainage, development and agricultural expansion. Much of Tweed Forum’s work is focused in the headwaters. We work closely with farmers and land owners to improve these important streams so they can support more flora and fauna such as otter and salmon.
The picture above shows a familiar scene on the Border hills. Heavy grazing near watercourses leads to a very short sward that can be easily eroded during flood flows. This leads to a wide and shallow stream that contains little cover for fish; the water heats up very quickly in hot spells, which can lead to lethal stress levels; and it reduces the number of terrestrial and aquatic insects available for fish to eat. In summary: less food, less cover and less resilience to extreme conditions.
Fencing off areas like on the Gala Water (above) and planting native trees helps restore a more natural stream structure; provide cover and shade and increase the amount of fish food through increased leaf litter inputs, upon which aquatic insects feed, as well as terrestrial insects which fall from trees and riparian vegetation.
Whether you believe in climate change of not, we are definitely experiencing more extreme events and these sorts of habitat improvements will help increase resilience to droughts and floods. Tweed Forum is carrying habitat improvement work on many of the tributaries of the Tweed including Teviot, Gala Water, Ettrick and Yarrow, Till, Bowmont and Eddleston.
For more information on all these projects please go to http://www.tweedforum.org/projects