SCIENTISTS have developed a new online mapping tool in a bid to protect wild salmon stocks by limiting the impact of climate change on Scotland’s rivers and fisheries.

Scotland’s rivers account for around 75 per cent of the UK and 30 per cent of European wild salmon production, with freshwater fisheries and associated expenditure contributing more than £79 million a year to the Scottish economy.

READ MORE: How a Scottish collaboration is saving lives with sensors

However, with Atlantic salmon sensitive to changes in river temperature and temperatures expected to increase under climate change, there are concerns over the future of the fish in Scottish rivers.

As a result, scientists at Marine Scotland and the University of Birmingham have developed a tool it is hoped will help river managers protect wild Atlantic salmon.

Their river temperature model predicts the maximum daily river temperatures and sensitivity to climate change throughout Scotland, with interactive maps made available through the National Marine Plan interactive website. The new tool has been welcomed by fishery chiefs.

READ MORE: Scottish scientists say eco-friendly beer packaging almost set for shelves

“Scotland’s Atlantic salmon populations are subject to a range of pressures and increases in freshwater temperature, associated with climate change, and will increasingly need to be managed,” said Alan Wells, chief executive of Fisheries Management Scotland.

“Our member district salmon fishery boards and fisheries trusts are engaged in projects to plant trees near rivers, in order to provide dappled shade and reduce extremes of temperature in our rivers. This model will be a valuable tool in targeting these efforts so that we can maximise the beneficial impact on our rivers.”

Mark Bilsby from the River Dee Trust added: “This is a really useful piece of work as it will allow us to target our resources on those parts of river in most need of trees to create shade and bring the temperatures down. The practical measure of planting trees to offset the local impacts of warming temperatures is well proven and this will put them where they are most needed.”

READ MORE: How The Data Lab helps Scotland lead the way in innovation

Cromarty Firth Fishery Board also welcomed the new tool. Like many other fishery management organisations in Scotland it has been undertaking a programme of native riparian woodland restoration for a number of years.

“The ecological benefits of riverside woodland are well recognised in terms of nutrient input, sediment control, cover for wild fish and natural flood management,” said the board’s Simon McKelvey. “This work will allow us to plan planting to ensure that the maximum benefits from shading are also achieved.”

The Scottish Government’s Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said it was “vital” to take “decisive” action to safeguard wild salmon stocks.

She pointed out that a number of complex factors, including climate change, are affecting wild salmon numbers in the north east Atlantic region.

Cunningham added: “This research identifies areas where our famous salmon rivers are at risk due to climate change and will help fisheries managers target work to protect stocks and increase the resilience of our fresh waters.”