Science and research

UK Upland Waters Monitoring Network

Follow us on Twitter

UK UWMN Policy and Research Support

Allt a'Mharcaidh

The UK UWMN not only provides definitive data on trends in the chemistry and biology of acid waters in the UK, it also supports UK policies on acid deposition and water quality, provides the evidence base for upland water management in the UK and underpins both national and international research programmes on freshwater ecosystems.

Policy support

The UK UWMN provides the evidence base to show the effectiveness of policy with respect to principal EU and UNECE legislation on acid deposition and surface waters in the UK. It contributes data from six sites to the UNECE International Cooperative Programme on the Assessment and Monitoring Effects of Air Pollution on Rivers and Lakes (ICP Waters) at the Focal Centre, NIVA, Oslo, as well as the ICP on Integrated Monitoring (two sites). Data from four UK UWMN sites are contributed to the UK Environmental Change Network, the European Long-Term Ecosystem Research Network (LTER Europe) and the International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) programme. Data from the UK UWMN has also been used to provide information on acidification status of Scottish rivers to NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation) to demonstrate improving status and was explicitly mentioned as an important source of data in the recent NASCO implementation plan for Scotland.

Management of upland waters

The UK UWMN is a major resource for organisations responsible for the management of upland water catchments in the UK, with many sites being located in SSSIs/SACs, and/or National Parks and National Trust land. These include:

  • The Environment Agency (Water Framework Directive and Daughter Directive on priority substances)
  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Water Framework Directive and Daughter Directive on priority substances)
  • Environment and Heritage Service (NI) (Water Framework, Daughter Directive on priority substances and Habitat Directives)
  • Natural England (Habitats Directive)
  • Natural Resources Wales (Habitats Directive)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage (Habitats Directive)
  • Forestry Commission (Forest and Water Guidelines)

Four UK UWMN lake sites have been designated as part of the Environment Agency's Water Framework Directive (WFD) Lake Surveillance Network: Scoat Tarn, Burnmoor Tarn, Llyn Cwm Mynach and Llyn Llagi. The UK UWMN contributes the biological and chemical data required for this statutory monitoring. Network data and expertise have been used in WFD acidification tools for diatoms and invertebrates and have recently been included in fish tool development for Scotland. Data from the Network continues to be useful in informing environmental standards and has been used indirectly to support the UK Rivers Task Team (RTT).

Several UK UWMN catchments are located in important drinking water catchment areas managed in association with water companies (e.g. River Etherow: North-west Water).

Research support

The UK UWMN has been central to acid waters research in the UK with respect to both international and national research programmes, underpinning the UK´s leading international position in this field. Key projects include:

  • Euro-limpacs, an integrated project under the EU´s 6th Framework programme on "The impacts of global change on European freshwater ecosystems" GOCE-CT-2003-505540, (2004-2009)
  • WISER, an integrated project under the EU´s 7th Framework programme on "Water bodies in Europe: Integrative systems to assess ecological status and recovery" Project Code 226273, (2009-2012)
  • REFRESH an integrated project under the EU´s 7th Framework programme on "Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems" Project Code 244121, (2010-2014)
  • BIOFRESH an integrated project under the EU´s 7th Framework programme on "Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: Status, Trends, Pressures, and Conservation Priorities" Project Code 226874, (2010-2014)

Within the UK the UK UWMN has been central to UK Government research through Defra. Under the Freshwater Umbrella programme current research uses the UK UWMN to support:

  • Biogeochemical studies into the fate of deposited N at UK UWMN catchments to quantify mass balances for N and develop critical load and dynamic models
  • Palaeolimnological studies of lake sediment isotopes as indicators of nutrient N impacts
  • Isotopic tracer and natural abundance studies of the fate of deposited N
  • Nutrient bioassay studies into changing lake and stream productivity induced by N deposition

These research programmes are heavily dependent on the long-term, high quality chemical and biological datasets available only from UK UWMN sites. They also benefit greatly from the co-location of United Kingdom Eutrophying & Acidifying Network (UKEAP) Precipitation Network sites with eight of the UK UWMN sites, with the direct aim of providing site specific deposition input data for computing mass balances and informing biogeochemical studies in areas of high scientific and conservation interest.

Beyond Government-funded research the UK UWMN is an invaluable resource for University and CEH-based research and teaching. These have included:

  • A Scottish Government contract, investigating methods to assess the role of catchment management in helping to protect and improve drinking water quality in a cost-effective way
  • NERC standard grant (University of Leeds) to determine the influence of precipitation chemistry on DOC concentration
  • NERC Ecology and Hydrology Funding Initiative grant (CEH Bangor) concerned with examining possible inter-relationships between sulphur, nitrogen and carbon dynamics in upland soils
  • NERC grant for "A United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network" (UKLEON)
  • Numerous PhD projects
  • Teaching resource for several MSc. Programmes, including MSc dissertations based around UK UWMN data (UCL and QMUL)
  • Leverhulme funded project on "Runoff processes and catchment hydrology" (Aberdeen University)

Page last modified: 7th October, 2015
Page published: 12 March 2010