CEH scientists to work on water quality challenges at Linlithgow Loch

Scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) are part of a new group charged with tackling the challenges, including water quality issues, at Linlithgow Loch in Scotland.

Key partners including CEH, Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Water, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, West Lothian Council, Scottish Government and local community representatives have come together to set out a clear action plan for working together on a long-term joint-management plan to improve water quality and biodiversity in the loch.

The group’s first priority is to understand where and how the nutrients, which cause algal blooms, enter the loch and to what extent these nutrients have been stock-piled in the lake bed sediments, representing a legacy pollution risk. To achieve this, a ‘source apportionment’ study will begin at the start of January 2017 and take place over the course of one year. The study, which will be resourced by Historic Environment Scotland, with scientific guidance from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Scottish Environment Protection Agency, will involve water sampling from a number of different locations within the catchment and loch. The information gathered through this process will help inform sources and solutions for managing nutrient pollution.

3 people paddling in a small boat on Linlithgow Loch

Freshwater Ecologist Dr Bryan Spears from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “The management of nutrient pollution and toxic algal blooms in our lakes is a widespread problem, but thankfully one that has been successfully tackled elsewhere. We will be drawing on our experiences of producing evidence to inform effective management of similar problems in the Loch Leven catchment.”

Dr Spears added, “In the coming months our monitoring teams will collect water samples from Linlithgow Loch’s inflows. This will occur every few weeks for one year. This information will be used to map nutrient sources and develop and prioritise mitigation options. We are designing the monitoring programme and training Historic Environment Scotland staff so they are better equipped to detect and respond to water quality problems effectively. Given the importance of the site for tourism, recreation and conservation interests it is important that we deliver a long-term management strategy that both increases biodiversity and reduces public and animal health risk associated with blue-green algae toxins.”

Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, is one of Scotland's most important sites for attracting tourists, attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year. Visiting the palace brings people to the water's edge and it is important that public health risk associated with recurring blue-green algal blooms is effectively controlled.

"Given the importance of the site for tourism, recreation and conservation interests it is important that we deliver a long-term management strategy that both increases biodiversity and reduces public and animal health risk associated with blue-green algae toxins." Dr Bryan Spears, CEH

Dr David Mitchell, Acting Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, and Chair of the first Strategic Management Group meeting, said, “The water quality issues at Linlithgow Loch are complex and will take a considerable time to address. To achieve that we are fortunate to have a number of specialists and experts on board, many of whom have tackled similar challenges at other locations."

Linlithgow Loch, like many bodies of water, is subject to recurring blue-green algal blooms. The algae, which can release toxins that are harmful to humans and animals, are often found in freshwater lakes during warmer summer months. A regular sample and testing programme to monitor the loch’s water quality and condition is already in place; as part of the on-going water monitoring, advisory signs around the loch are updated regularly to highlight the presence and toxicity of blooms.

Additional information

Staff page of Dr Bryan Spears, CEH

Historic Environment Scotland

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