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Rivers much healthier when fringed by trees

08/05/2013 10:19:55

Thousands of young trees get ready for action on the banks of the Glendun River in the Glens of Antrim.

Rivers are cool with trees
May 2013. A river in Northern Ireland's County Antrim has a new natural ally as 2,000 native saplings now dot the banks of the Glendun River in the scenic Glens of Antrim, not far from Cushendall.

Increases wildlife in and around the river
The trees have been strategically planted in order to deliver a multitude of benefits, with improved water quality high on the list. According to the Woodland Trust, trees and woods planted along watercourses can, literally, help keep rivers cool. Trees provide dappled shade from the sun. This reduces the growth of weeds and algae, and also helps increase the amount of oxygen available for fish and other freshwater life.

Gregor Fulton, the Trust's new operations manager, explained that the Glendun trees have more than one role to play: "The banks of the river were, in some parts, collapsing. As the trees mature, their roots will help to bind, strengthen and stabilise the sides of the river, preventing erosion and more earth from being washed away.

"Trees planted in the right place also help to trap and reduce the amount of pollutants and sediment which can end up in our rivers and streams. In this case, after heavy rainfall, silt was being washed from an upland area directly into the river. And when it comes to farms, trees help reduce the costly run-off of resources such as seeds and fertilisers."

Good for farmers
With memories of extreme weather and snow-covered hills still vivid, the private landowner had another motive for tree planting: the welfare of his sheep. All livestock are vulnerable to extremes of temperature. Trees provide vital shelter from the elements during the winter months, increasing lamb survival rates. Conversely, planting native trees is a natural and cost-effective way to provide shade in summer.

The Glendun River project was made possible thanks to funding from NI Water. The Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust brought the land to the attention of the Woodland Trust and the tree planting was carried out by NI Farm Forestry.

Cecil McCool of NI Water said: "This initiative has been funded by NI Water's SCAMP NI Project1. It's one of a number of projects that we're working on in partnership with the Woodland Trust. The benefits of trees to water quality, reducing run-off, sedimentation and their associated filtering effects are well-proven and well-documented, and NI Water is delighted with the scale and success of this project in such an important designated landscape."

The Trust is encouraging other landowners to experience the beauty and many benefits of woodland.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for farmers and landowners to convert unused land into flourishing woodland. We can organise site visits and offer comprehensive advice and guidance to get your planting underway. We'll explore sources of grant-aid and, where applicable, we'll even help landowners apply for funding," says Gregor Fulton.

To find out more, telephone 0845 293 5689; email or visit

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

It Brings Down The Water Temperature

Planting trees in riparian habitats, brings down the water temperature so rivers are more inhabitable for fish. This encourages anadromous fish, such as salmon. The can survive in cooler rivers, when the come upstream to spawn.

Posted by: Tim Upham | 11 May 2013 02:38:48

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