Discover the Dee

Habitat Types

Sections 20 - 25 in the Dee Catchment Management Plan set out the different habitat types found in the Dee Catchment in detail. We are very lucky to have a rich landscape of:

Lowland Wetlands:

The valleys of the Dee catchment hold a variety of wetlands

  • Several small lochs are scattered along the Dee Valley between Dinnet and Aberdeen. Lochs Davan, Kinord, Aboyne, and Skene hold international designations in recognition of their importance for their aquatic and marginal flora, wintering and breeding bird population and otters
  • A few lochs are artificially impounded namely Aboyne Loch which is used as a water ski area, yet retains a nationally important aquatic plant community and the Loch of Skene which is a Special Protection Area for wintering geese
  • Raised bogs are very restricted with just a few examples occurring on the Muir of Dinnet, Red Moss of Netherley and Red Moss of Candaglirach near Banchory. The former two examples are designate s Special Areas of Conservation
  • Springs, flushes, fens, natural ponds, wet woodlands and wet hollows add to the diversity with valuable plant and invertebrate communities

Upland Wetlands:

The upland wetland habitats in the Dee catchment are of national and international nature conservation importance for their communities of birds, invertebrates, and plants. They also have an essential role in regulating runoff after rain or snow by absorbing large quantities of water and then releasing it slowly. 

  • The most extensive wetland habitat type in the uplands of the Dee catchment is blanket bog, which supports important and interesting plant and bird communities. Some of the upland blanket bogs posses remnant populations of water vole which have largely been lost for the lowlands
  • The lochans at high altitudes in the Cairngorms are extremely poor in nutrients and hold specialised communities of flora and fauna of international importance
  • The lochs at intermediate altitude such as loch Builg and Loch Callater support important populations of Arctic Char


The flat land adjacent to the River Dee and its tributaries has an important role in the natural behaviour of this dynamic river system. The constant processes of erosion and deposition of sediments making up the river bank are the means of dissipating energy and in many sections has caused the lateral migration of the river channel. The results can be seen in numerous stretches of the Dee where old river courses have been abandoned as the river has formed a new channel. In a few places where river banks are not reinforced, this process continues.

Regular flooding of the floodplains has been prevented by the construction of artificial embankments along much of the length of the River Dee and its larger tributaries. The has caused the loss of temporary or seasonal wetlands of value to birds, amphibians, invertebrates, and various plant communities. Such embankments protect he Deeside towns and smaller settlements from flooding as well as farmland and infrastructure, such as sewage treatment works. The constriction of the water flow to artificially embanked channels can have serious consequences downstream. 

The relatively fertile soils of the floodplain mean that they are valued for agriculture. This has led to the almost complete clearance of floodplain woodlands with only small fragments of alder and willow woodland left. It has also resulted in historical drainage of former wetlands such as the Loch of Auchlossen near Lumphanan.

Wet & Riparian Woodlands:

Wet woodlands (those occurring on floodplains, flushed slopes and peaty hollows) and riparian woodland (those on the banks of burns, rivers, and lochs) provide important habitat for a number of plants, invertebrate, bird and mammal species, including a number of Local Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. 

Factors such as clearance, planting of other tree species, overgrazing, drainage, and flood prevention measures, dumping and invasion by non-native plant species have affected the condition and distribution of these woodland types. 

Wet woodlands have an important role as a link between terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. These woodlands influence the health and productivity of rivers and burns and also provide exceptional value for nature conservation and amenity. Leaves and insects falling from trees provide essential food for aquatic invertebrates and fish. Tree roots stabilise riverbanks, capture and recycle mineral nutrients and promote biodiversity both on the bank and in the watercourse. Riparian woodland can also buffer rivers and burns from the potential for diffuse pollution from adjacent conifer plantations and agriculture. Restoration to improve the connectivity between riparian woods can make a major contribution to the development of forest habitat networks,

Bankside Grasslands:

The rich herb bankside grasslands along parts of the Dee and its tributaries are the remnants of what was probably once a much more widespread plant community, The previous extent will to some extent have been fostered by woodland clearance for farming and ongoing grazing by domestic stock. The introduction of more intensive agricultural systems over the last 50 years, especially on the most fertile soils of the floodplains, has in then been responsible for much of the loss so that today many of the remnants associates with river banks that cannot be cultivated. Accordingly, it is very uncommon habitat throughout Deeside and indeed throughout Britain so that those areas of grassland that remain are very important for nature conservation. 

Species associated with these grasslands in the Deeside include those formally typical of lowland communities including yellow rattle, cowslip, zigzag clover, wood cranesbill, lady's mantle, melancholy thistle and globeflower, together with species brought down as a seed from the upland areas such as spignel and northern bedstraw. These grasslands have a high appeal to visitors as well as providing food for aquatic life on the form of seed and invertebrates that fall into the river.

Urban Watercourses:

Urban watercourses provide a range of management challenges. There are often highly conflicting pressures, examples of which include the need for development space, the need for waste disposal, health and safety requirements, flood prevention and recreation. 

Historically, these pressures and the resultant management options chosen have often resulted in watercourses which provide minimal opportunities for wildlife. As well as impacting on biodiversity, extensive modifications to watercourses, the use of 'hard' engineering and the desire to hide watercourses also results in the loss of many of the potential social benefits of having more natural stream/river systems in the urban environment. 

However, with appropriate management, an urban watercourse can deliver the uses required by the surrounding community encompassing both social amenity benefits, while also supporting a valuable range of habitats and wildlife.

Information Maps

Scotland's Environment Web hosts various map layers, that provide you with a detailed mosaic of our local habitat.