Bryan Spears at Kinghorn Loch

Discussing the restoration of Loch Leven, 2011




Dr Bryan Spears

Freshwater Ecologist

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology,
Bush Estate, Penicuik,
Edinburgh, Midlothian,
EH26 0QB 
Tel: +44 (0)131 445 4343
Fax: +44 (0)131 445 3943
E-mail: Dr Bryan Spears


Research interests

I am a freshwater ecologist with particular expertise in the biogeochemical transformation of nutrients within shallow aquatic ecosystems and the role of aquatic organisms in regulating these processes. I have experience in studying the roles of benthic microalgae, macrophytes, bacteria and macroinvertebrates in regulating nutrient cycling between sediments and overlying waters in shallow lakes.

Introduction to CEH's work on freshwater lakes (video)


Current work

I currently lead a series of projects designed to assess forced recovery in shallow lakes using phosphorus capping products. These studies range from laboratory scale assays to whole lake experiments, the results of which are being used to underpin policy development in the UK and EU on the use of novel lake restoration methods. This work continues to develop our understanding of ecosystem resilience and regime shifts in shallow lakes.

More information on CEH’s
lake restoration research


Current research projects

  • Assessing the use of phosphorus capping products for achieving WFD targets in lakes (EA-CEH)
  • Assessing the effects of Phoslock® application in Loch Flemington (SNH-CEH)
  •  Restoration of freshwaters and wetlands (CEH)
  • Assessing resilience across ecosystems (CEH)
  • Developing a decision support system for assessing management in lakes (CEH-Defra-EA)

Recent research projects

2012: Restoration of freshwaters and wetlands (CEH)

2012: Monitoring and assessment of the impacts of droughts (MWH)

2012: Climate change, algal growth and management of water supply (WRc)

2012: Ecosystem resilience: pattern, structure and function (WP1.1-CEH Internal)

2012: Assessing recovery from eutrophication in Loch Flemington following control of sediment phosphorus release using Phoslock® (SNH)

2012: EA-CEH Lake Restoration Project (CLEAR) (EA & CEH)

2011: Assessing the need for the control of internal phosphorus loading in EA lakes (EA)

2011: Assessing long-term studies of ecosystem regime shifts (CEH)

2011: Assessing recovery trajectories for Loch Fitty (Scottish Coal Ltd)

2010-2011: Developing the Magnetic Particle Induction System for cohesivity measurement of surfaces (NERC Innovations “A” award)

2010-2011: Flood-risk assessment of Linlithgow Loch (West Lothian Council)

2011-2012: Water quality monitoring at Loch Leven – 2008-2010 (SNH)

2010-2012: Restoration requirements at Linlithgow Loch (SNH & SEPA)

2010: The impact of phosphorus inputs from small discharges on designated freshwater sites (Broads Authority and Natural England)

2010: Assessment of restoration requirements at Hornsea Mere (NE)

2009-2012: Waterbodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to Assess Ecological Status and Recovery (WISER) (EU FP7)

2009-2011: Assessing lake restoration needs in the UK (CEH)

2008-2010: Variation in bacterial community composition in shallow lakes (CEH/Leverhulme)

2009-2012: Assessing forced regime shifts for speeding up recovery in shallow lakes (CEH; DAAD; Phoslock® Europe GmBH)

2008-2009: Physical ecosystem engineering by aquatic plants (NERC)

2008-2009: Literature review of the Tay catchment (CEH)

2008-2009: Developing methods for quantifying spatial heterogeneity in lakes (CEH)

2007-2009: Assessing trophic interactions in Loch Leven (CEH Integrating fund)

2007-present: Long-term monitoring of Loch Leven (CEH)

2007-2008: Identifying the gap to meet Water Framework Directive - Lake baselines (Defra)

2007-2008: Nutrient Modeling and a Nutrient Budget for Llangorse Lake (CCW)


Student projects supervised

  • Amir Zeb: The suitability of iron ochre and Phoslock for treatment of fish farm effluent (MSc Edinburgh University, 2008)
  • Erin Lotovsky: Uptake of heavy metals by algal periphyton in constructed wetlands for urban storm water runoff treatment (MSc Edinburgh University, 2008; distinction)
  • Victoria Davidson: Assessing historical trends in nutrient flux and stoichiometry from Loch Leven (MSc University of St Andrews, 2008)
  • Will Brownlie: Understanding the magnitude, frequency, and stoichiometry of nutrient delivery to and from lakes (MSc Kings College London, 2008; distinction)
  • Helen Bykova: Effects of physical disturbance on biostabilisation in intertidal sediments (MSc University of St Andrews, 2007)
  • Neil Robins: Assessing nutrient delivery from T in the Park music Festival (MSc Napier University, 2010)
  • Kirsty Jack: The effects of climate change on sedimentation rates in Loch Leven (MSc Stirling University, 2009)
  • Sebastian Meis: Assessing in-lake eutrophication management and P-stripping in shallow lakes (PhD submitted, Cardiff University 2012)
  • Naomi Ginnever: The photophysiology of rocky shore biofilms. (PhD in progress, Cardiff University)
  • Will Brownlie: Creating a phosphorus foot-printing scheme for rural and urban development (PhD in progress, Herriot Watt University)
  • Xintong Lee: Assessing the extent and impacts of red mud pollution at the global scale. (MSc Edinburgh University, 2012)
  • Justyna Olszewska: Assessing the effects of red mud pollution in Kinghorn Loch (Fife, Scotland) (PhD in progress, Edinburgh University)
  • Amy Anderson: Remediation of Esthwaite Water by top-down and bottom-up management: a whole lake experiment. (PhD in progress, Queen Mary University of London; Natural England)

Brief CV

  • 2007-present: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (Edinburgh research site)
  • 2006-2007: Post-doctoral Research Associate / Laboratory Manager (Sediment Ecology Research Group, University of St Andrews)
  • 2003-2006: PhD University of St Andrews, Scotland: Role of benthic algae in regulating benthic-pelagic nutrient cycling in a shallow loch (Loch Leven)
  • 2000-2002: MSc Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada: Limnology in the Mackenzie Delta (Western Canadian Arctic)
  • 1995-1999: BSc (Hons) [2:1] in Environmental Science and Technology, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland

Recent publications

See also the NERC Open Research Archive.

Spears, B.M., Meis, S., Anderson, A. and Kellou, M. Comparison of phosphorus (P) removal properties of materials proposed for the control of sediment P release in UK lakes. Science of the total Environment (accepted)

Verdonschot, P.F.M., Spears B.M., Feld, CK., Brucet, S., Keizer-Vlek, H., Borja, A., Elliott, M., Kernan, M., and Johnson, R.K. A comparative review of recovery processes in rivers, lakes, estuarine and coastal waters. Hydrobiologia (in press)

Winfield, I.J., Adams, C.E., Armstrong, J.D., Gardiner, R., Kirika, A., Montgomery, J., Spears, B.M., Stewart, D.C., Thorpe, J.E. and Wilson, W. 2012. Changes in the fish community of Loch Leven: untangling anthropogenic pressures. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 73-84.

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L., Perkins, R., Kirika, A. and Paterson, D.M. 2012. Long-term variation and regulation of internal phosphorus loading in Loch Leven. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 23-33.

Spears, B. and May, L. 2012. Antony Edward Bailey-Watts PhD, DSc (23 August 1942 - 15 July 2007) In memoriam. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 1-2.

Meis, S., Spears, B.M., Maberly, S.C., O'Malley, M.B. and Perkins, R.G. 2012. Sediment amendment with Phoslock (R) in Clatto Reservoir (Dundee, UK): Investigating changes in sediment elemental composition and phosphorus fractionation. J. Environ. Manage. 93(1), 185-193.

May, L. and Spears, B.M. (Eds.) 2012.. Loch Leven: 40 years of scientific research – Understanding the links between pollution, climate change and ecological response. Developments in Hydrobiology 218. ISBN 978-94-007-4332-8

May, L. and Spears, B.M. 2012. Managing ecosystem services at Loch Leven, Scotland, UK: actions, impacts and unintended consequences. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 117-130.

May, L. and Spears, B.M. 2012. A history of scientific research at Loch Leven, Kinross, Scotland. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 3-9.

Letovsky, E., Heal, K., Carvalho, L. and Spears, B. 2012. Intracellular Versus Extracellular Iron Accumulation in Freshwater Periphytic Mats Across a Mine Water Treatment Lagoon. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution 223(4), 1519-1530.

Carvalho, L., Miller, C., Spears, B.M., Gunn, I.D.M., Bennion, H., Kirika, A. and May, L. 2012. Water quality of Loch Leven: responses to enrichment, restoration and climate change. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 35-47.

Carss, D., Spears, B.M., Quinn, L. and Cooper, R. 2012. Long-term variations in waterfowl populations in Loch Leven: identifying discontinuities between local and national trends. Hydrobiologia 681(1), 85-104.

Anderson A.M., Spears B.M., Lubarsky H.V., Davidson I., Gerbersdorf S.U. and Paterson D.M. 2011. Magnetic Particle Induction and Its Importance in Biofilm Research. In: Reza Fazel-Rezai (Ed.) "Biomedical Engineering - Frontiers and Challenges". ISBN 978-953-307-309-5. In-Tech Scientific Publishers. DOI: 10.5772/21224

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L., Perkins, R., O'Malley, M.B. and Paterson, D.M. 2010. The contribution of epipelon to total sediment microalgae in a shallow temperate eutrophic loch (Loch Leven, Scotland). Hydrobiologia 646(1), 281-293.

Spears, B. and Jones, I. 2010. The long-term (1979–2005) effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation on wind-induced wave mixing in Loch Leven (Scotland). Hydrobiologia 646(1), 49-59.

May, L., Spears, B.M., Dudley, B.J. and Hatton-Ellis, T.W. 2010. The importance of nitrogen limitation in the restoration of Llangorse Lake, Wales, UK. J. Environ. Monitoring 12(1), 338-346.

Spears, B.M., Gunn, I.D.M., Carvalho, L., Winfield, I.J., Dudley, B., Murphy, K. and May, L. 2009. An evaluation of methods for sampling macrophyte maximum colonisation depth in Loch Leven, Scotland. Aquatic Botany 91(2), 75-81.

Evans, K.M., Chepurnov, V.A., Sluiman, H.J., Thomas, S.J., Spears, B.M. and Mann, D.G. 2009. Highly Differentiated Populations of the Freshwater Diatom Sellaphora capitata Suggest Limited Dispersal and Opportunities for Allopatric Speciation. Protist 160(3), 386-396.

Duethmann, D., Anthony, S., Carvalho, L. and Spears, B. 2009. A model‐based assessment of non‐compliance of phosphorus standards for lakes in England and Wales. Int. J. River Basin Manage. 7(3), 197-207.

Spears, B.M., Saunders, J.E., Davidson, I. and Paterson, D.M. 2008. Microalgal sediment biostabilisation along a salinity gradient in the Eden Estuary, Scotland: unravelling a paradox. Marine and Freshwater Research 59(4), 313-321.

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L., Perkins, R. and Paterson, D.M. 2008. Effects of light on sediment nutrient flux and water column nutrient stoichiometry in a shallow lake. Water Research 42(4-5), 977-986.

Poulickova, A., Hasler, P., Lysakova, M. and Spears, B. 2008. The ecology of freshwater epipelic algae: an update. Phycologia 47(5), 437-450.

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L., Perkins, R., Kirika, A. and Paterson, D.M. 2007. Sediment phosphorus cycling in a large shallow lake: spatio-temporal variation in phosphorus pools and release. Hydrobiologia 584, 37-48.

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L. and Paterson, D.M. 2007. Phosphorus partitioning in a shallow lake: implications for water quality management. Water and Environment Journal 21(1), 47-53.

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L. and Paterson, D.M. 2007. Phosphorus partitioning in a shallow lake: implications for water quality management. Water and Environment Journal 21(1), 47-53.

Spears, B.M., Funnel, J., Saunders, J. and Paterson, D.M. 2007. On the boundaries: sediment stability measurements across aquatic ecosystems. Environ. Sci. and Engineering, 67-116.

Spears, B.M. and Lesack, L.F.W. 2006. Bacterioplankton production, abundance, and nutrient limitation among lakes of the Mackenzie Delta (western Canadian arctic). Canadian J. Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences 63(4), 845-857.

Spears, B.M., Carvalho, L., Perkins, R., Kirika, A. and Paterson, D.M. 2006. Spatial and historical variation in sediment phosphorus fractions and mobility in a large shallow lake. Water Research 40(2), 383-391.