Many areas of the River Dee catchment are protected by national or international legislation.
The River Dee supplies the whole of Aberdeen city (over 220,000 people) and over half of Aberdeenshire with domestic water. As such it was designated in March 2005 under the Water Framework Directive as a water used for the abstraction of drinking water.
Economically significant species
Areas designated to protect economically significant species were established under earlier EC directives aimed at protecting shellfish (76/160/EEC) and freshwater fish (78/659/EEC).
The waters of the whole catchment are designated as ‘salmonid’ under the terms of the European Freshwater Fisheries Directive which provides statutory protection for the fishery.
Areas designated for the protection of habitats or species
These are areas designated for the protection of habitats or species. They comprise sites designated under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), which are known as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Birds Directive (79/409/EEC), which are known as Special Protected Areas (SPAs). SACs and SPAs are together known as Natura 2000 sites. The River Dee and its tributaries have been designated as an SAC because they support internationally important freshwater pearl mussel, Atlantic salmon and otter populations. The Glen Tanar and Loch of Skene SPAs are in the Dee catchment; the headwaters of the Dee are part of the Cairngorms SPA.
Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention. There are two Ramsar Sites in the Dee catchment: the Loch of Skene and the Muir of Dinnet.
Most of the upper main river and tributaries are are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
From the City limits as far as Banchory, the catchment is designated as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (Map 4). This area includes the tributaries: the Bo Burn, the Burn of Sheeoch, the Cairnie Burn, the Leuchar burn and the Gormack burn.
Cairngorms National Park
The whole of the upper catchment west of Aboyne falls within the Cairngorms National Park. The Cairngorms was made a National Park in September 2003 due to the importance of the wildlife and countryside it contains. The geology, altitude and climate of the Cairngorms combine to produce plant and animal communities that are rare in a worldwide context. Significant changes in this area would almost certainly have consequences for nature conservation, the land economy and the recreational value of the Cairngorms.
The Cairngorms National Park is Britain's largest National Park and one of the largest in Europe. The Park has the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the UK at its heart, with diverse communities around it. It is home to 16000 people and 25% of Britain's threatened birds, animals, and plants.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority is developing a National Park Plan.This is a new type of Plan which cuts across organisations and sectors, bringing together all those involved in the management of the Park. It is a Plan for the Park as a whole, not just for the Park Authority.The draft Park Plan sets out a long term vision and strategic objectives looking at least 25 years ahead. It also identifies the priorities for investment and action from 2007 to 2012.