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Loughs Agency Removes 3,000 Plastic Tree Guards From Roe Valley

28th December 2021
Plastic guards were put in place to protect the mixed-species saplings on the River Roe
Plastic guards were put in place to protect the mixed-species saplings on the River Roe after they were planted in the first half of the 2010s Credit: Loughs Agency

Between 2012 and 2014, each spring the Loughs Agency — in partnership with Woodland Trust and with the agreement of local landowners — planted 10,000 mixed-species native trees along both banks of the River Roe in Northern Ireland.

This section of the Roe, in the upper Glenshane area of Co Derry, holds good populations of salmon and trout and a varied mixture of habitat for fish of all ages, the Loughs Agency says.

However, surveys highlighted that the riparian zones on both banks were devoid of tree cover, with only small numbers of coniferous pine trees present.

Riparian tree planting undertaken by the Loughs Agency sought to address several issues:

  • reduce runoff from the surrounding hills, thus reducing in-stream sedimentation and the threat to salmonid redds;
  • stabilise the riverbanks; and
  • slow the flow in the upland area, thus helping to reduce the potential of flooding downstream

Given current trends for prolonged dry spells in summer, the trees will provide valuable shade along the riverbank and a much-needed cooling effect during these times.

The maturing trees strengthening the banks of the River Roe in Co Derry | Credit: Loughs Agency

Fallen leaf litter will help increase populations of in-stream bug life for fish to prey upon. In addition, the trees provide a much-needed biodiversity corridor in this upland area.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said: “In a climate of ever-increasing pressure upon the environment and natural resources, these schemes meet Loughs Agency's core responsibility of protecting and conserving freshwater fish stocks.

“They also help protect rivers, slow the flow, capture carbon. and provide an aesthetically pleasing biodiversity corridor adjacent to one of our most travelled routes.”

During planting, tree guards were put in place to protect young saplings from sheep, hares and deer. In this exposed environment, the guards also protect the trees from the elements.

Now that the trees are maturing, and the left-hand bank of the riparian zone has been fenced off since 2019, earlier this month the Loughs Agency completed the process of removing these plastic guards and over 3,000 were sent for recycling.

The works continue enhancements of the River Roe that have benefitted from an £80,000 investment since 2019, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

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