Looking downstream on the River Cree
Looking upstream on the River Bladnoch
Felling of commercial forestry in Galloway Forest Park
Looking upstream on the River Luce
North American Signal Crayfish
The sandy beach at Loch Grannoch
Belted Galloway Cattle, or 'Belties'
Fly fishing on the River Cree
A small upland burn
The High Cree, looking towards Cairnsmore of Fleet
A small waterfall on the Buchan Burn
A salmon from the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee
The Rowan Tree Burn (a tributary of the Water of Minnoch) catchment used to be totally covered in Sitka spruce plantation. Conifers had been planted right up to the edge of the burn and at some points totally over shaded the burn. As the surrounding forestry has been restructured in recent years, any replanting of conifers takes place well back from the burn. GFT also planted deciduous trees in the riparian zone around the lower burn to further improve its suitability for fish. The riparian and instream habitats in the burn provides good conditions for fish but GFT electrofishing has found very few wild fish to be present and hatchery fish which were added nearly all died in a few months.
Unsuitable water quality would appear to be the most likely explanation for the lack of fish. A water sample collected in early 2014 as part of a SEPA study into acidification (which GFT assisted in) suggested that water pH was low. In particular though, Aluminium levels were found to be very high. Elevated Aluminium is always a concern regarding fish as certain forms of Aluminium, especially labile, is very toxic to fish and is often associated with low pH. In fact it is Aluminium which usually causes the death of older fish in waters suffering from acidification. In this case the analysis undertaken by SEPA was for total aluminium and the high figure was the un-filtered element. Importantly it did not identify separately the toxic fraction. The relationship between the different forms of Aluminium is complex and with regards to toxicity to fish can vary a lot depending on other things present such as Calcium and dissolved organic carbon. We have been in discussions with the SEPA Fish Team and Marine Scotland Science and all parties agree that the Aluminium recorded could be an explanation for the lack of fish. Marine Scotland Science offered to undertake a more detailed analysis of another high flow water sample which would allow them to investigate in more detail the water quality here. GFT collected the sample last week and sent it away. It will be very interesting to hear what they find in due course.
Jamie Ribbens (GFT) and John Gorman (SEPA) have also walked all of the burn also to look in more detail whether there were any likely sources of reduced water quality. In particular we were looking for certain things which are often associated with poor water quality such as quarries, major landslips, poor forest practice at felling sites or recently constructed roads. No obvious problems were identified. Some small areas of erosion were noted but they were pretty minor. A lot of forestry had been recently felled on the East bank of the upper burn and it was encouraging to note that best practice has been closely followed such as the use of silt traps.
We will now wait to hear back from Marine Scotland Science before considering the next step to take. Although there are natural water falls on the burn limiting access for migratory fish, there is around 700 m of accessibly habitat in the lower burn for salmon / trout and at least a further 1,300 m of burn upstream which should be supporting Brown trout.