Challenges at RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes

The map below shows an overview of historic modifications at RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes, which have left lasting impacts on the floodplain. These areas are where we will be focussing our work.


Challenges and Opportunities

We have identified opportunities to address the challenges shown above at three areas of RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes. The maps below show the broad locations where we will be developing our proposals.


As a result of the presence of the embankments that run alongside the River Spey, the floodplain is not able to deliver benefits for nature and people to its full potential.


Embankments prevent water from moving freely between the river and floodplain. This disrupts the floodplain's hydrology, particularly in wetter winter months.

In drier summer months, a different human modification has had a damaging impact on Insh Marshes: the presence of drainage ditches.


Ditches try and move water out of the floodplain more quickly than would naturally happen, making areas of the floodplain drier than they should be, especially during summer drought conditions.

The drying of the marshes damages the underlying peat as well as sphagnum moss; both of which store high volumes of wetland waters and help maintain a healthy wetland ecosystem. Once dried out, the peat is also less able to soak up carbon from the atmosphere.

The drying of the marshes also has had negative impacts on protected wetland habitats, including fens, marshes, and swamps. These habitats would otherwise be a haven for a range of wetland plants and animal species and support notable bird species including waders, rails, and ducks.

 sphagnum-moss curlew-Andy-Hay-rspb-images

Future considerations

There is growing concern that current management of RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes is unsustainable, which means it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain some of the designated features and habitats it is recognised for. This is due to a number of factors, including unseasonably wet winters and dry summers, and failed historic modifications causing additional pressures on the floodplain.

Additionally, the climate crisis means our world is changing. In Northern Scotland, climate change projections indicate that winters could become increasingly wetter, and our summers increasingly drier. This puts more pressure on us to find sustainable ways to manage the floodplain and mitigate the impact of these changes. We believe that restoring the floodplain so that it functions better is the best option for securing its long-term future.

This floodplain restoration work will form part of a range of inter-connected landscape restoration projects being delivered by Cairngorms Connect. These projects aim to increase climate resilience and enhance habitats, species and ecological processes.


Images: Sphagnum moss ©Adrian Samuels, Curlew ©Andy Hay

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