The Dee catchment is of exceptional conservation value. The biodiversity of the catchment includes mainly natural communities, relatively little influenced by man. Flora and fauna are typical of an uncontaminated highland system, typically low in diversity, especially compared with lowland areas.


The River Dee catchment area supports a rich variety of habitats and species: rivers, lochs, wetlands and these support many rare and plants and animals.

Protected Places in the Dee Catchment 

The Upper half of the River Dee is within the Cairngorms National Park until the village of Dinnet. The Park was created in 2003 and is the largest National Park in Britain. 

There are 5 National Nature Reserves (NNRs):

Cairngorms, Dinnet Oakwood, Glen Tanar, Morrone Birkwood, Muir of Dinnet

There are also 7 Special Protected Areas (SPAs), 11 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), 3 Ramsar sites and 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The list of these sites can be seen in the Dee Catchment Management Plan Summary.


The River Dee and its tributaries qualify as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to internationally important populations of Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel and European otter.

As well as Atlantic salmon, the river contains stocks of trout, lamprey and eel, plus an array of introduced species. However, it is the salmon for which the river is famous. It has been designated a Special Area of Conservation for Atlantic salmon primarily due to the strength of the spring-running component of this species.

Protected Species Found in the Dee Catchment

Plants Moluscs Amphibians Insects Fish Mammals Birds

Grass wreck pondweed


Wynch Elm

Freshwater pearl mussel

Common  frog

Palmate Newt

Aspen hoverfly

Northern blue damselfly


Stone fly

Atlantic salmon

Brook lamprey

River lamprey

Sea lamprey

Daubenton's bat


Pippistrelle bat

Red squirrel

Water vole

Water shrew



Spotted crake


Water rail



Photo Credits: GWCT                                             Back Yard Biology

  • c/o James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH
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