Current Research

Developing adaptation strategies to minimise the impacts of climate change on the conservation interests of Scotland's standing freshwaters.

My PhD research project, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), at the University of Dundee commenced at the beginning of October 2010.

I am supervised by Professor Chris Spray (UNESCO IHP-HELP Centre for Water Science, Policy and Law) and Dr John Rowan (Director of the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR)) and sit within the graduate school of the School of the Environment.

New paper

We are delighted that our first project paper has been published in the geographical journal Area.

Muir, M.C.A., Spray, C.J. and Rowan, J.S. (2012) Climate change and Scotland’s standing freshwaters: Informing adaptation strategies for conservation at the landscape scale. Area. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01130.x

Read the paper here. If you would like a copy of the pdf please contact me.


Project Overview

Scotland's freshwater lochs contain more than 90% of the total freshwater resource and occupy approximately 2% of the country's land mass. Their iconic status stems from their often spectacular landscape settings and their myriad of forms and sizes providing habitats and environmental services of national and international importance. In respect of standing waters there is a need to protect the conservation interests of designated sites in the face of changing loch and catchment pressures, which include diffuse pollutants, engineering, recreation and invasive species. Climate change presents a new set of challenges with potential impacts across the entire standing water resource base. These impacts will arise from both direct effects, such as lake mixing behaviour, but also through more complex indirect responses at the landscape scale resulting from altered water balances, nutrient and carbon fluxes leading to increased habitats and organism stress.

According to the UKLakes Database there are 25,569 standing freshwaters in Scotland with surface areas exceeding 0.1 ha (see figure above). Of these, the 5,167 lochs (with surface area >2ha) are the focus of our study. With the exception of macrophyte surveys few of these have received systematic scientific attention and there are major gaps in our basic knowledge about the range and distribution of physical types, their current physical condition or how the legacy of historical impacts, such as water level regulation or wetland drainage, continues to influence biodiversity patterns and trends. Predicting how these systems will respond to future climate change greatly amplifies these uncertainties.

Increasing our understanding of the condition of the national freshwater resource base and developing an adaptation and mitigation strategy to minimise the impact of climate change on Scotland's standing waters thus provides the rationale for this PhD programme.