A YOUNG conservationist from the Wee County has already made his mark protecting some of Scotland's must vulnerable rivers at the age of just 22.

Clackmannanshire's very own Niall Provan is part of a select team working on the Larig Restoration Project, part of the wider River Teith Catchment Project, in an initiative to protect Scotland's rivers from climate change.

The work undertaken seeks to improve the River Larig and its surrounding habitat through large scale tree planting in addition to in-river and bankside restoration works.

Niall got involved after he completed a modern apprenticeship through Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), the Callander Landscape Partnership (CLP) and the Callander Youth Project Trust.

He works as a project support officer with Forth Rivers Trust with the Larig Restoration Project funded by NatureScot as part of the Biodiversity Challenge Fund (BCF), and as a response to Marine Scotland's wider initiative to protect rivers from climate change.

Niall said: "I was lucky enough to get involved in a large-scale tree planting and river restoration project on the River Larig near Balquhidder, headed by Forth Rivers Trust.

"The project I'm working on aims at improving the biodiversity of the river, as well as looking at the impact climate change is having on River Larig's fish population.

"So far I've been river surveying, invertebrate sampling, and electro-fishing, a technique that allows us to capture and survey fish without doing them harm.

"This project follows up on previous riparian woodland planting works on the Larig, which have been ongoing since 2019.

"These riparian corridors will provide shade and help to cool the water from rising summer temperatures.

"This is important to maintain a healthy fish population.

"Once the trees have grown to a more mature height, branches, leaves, detritus and even whole trees will fall into the river providing nutrient input which the river is sorely lacking.

"This in turn will lead to more invertebrates in the river, which will be eaten by fish and support their population."

The works undertaken by Niall and the team will improve the biodiversity of the river and the surrounding area while providing shade and refuge for migratory Atlantic salmon, as well as other aquatic species.

The in-river works include the creation of large woody structures, consisting of repurposed wind-blown trees, which will provide shade for salmonid species and replicate natural river processes to create diversity in the flow of the river."

Indeed, Atlantic salmon populations are currently on the down, possibly due to pressures such as pollution, overfishing and climate change.

Projects, such as the one Niall is involved in, hope to create areas of sanctuary for salmon to spawn and help to boost their numbers once more.

Niall added: "Part of our job is to survey each site using drone mapping software. The before and after images will allow us to see the effect our work has had on the banks, on the water flow and general composition of the river."