The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and our associated research community will use £1 million NERC capital investment to purchase and deploy state-of-the-art aquatic greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement technology. This will allow us to transform our capacity to measure, understand and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from UK inland waters.

GHG Aqua's scientific objectives are to:

  1. Establish a research community of research centres and universities, together with industry partners, to undertake coordinated measurements of aquatic GHG fluxes at representative locations across the UK, in order to;
  2. Expand existing research and build new collaborations to exploit the infrastructure established, and thereby;
  3. Generate new scientific understanding of the role of inland waters in the global carbon cycle, their contribution to GHG emissions, and the potential to mitigate these emissions through catchment or waterbody-scale interventions.

Project description

In the GHG Aqua project we are establishing an integrated, UK-wide system for measuring aquatic GHG emissions. This combines a core of five highly instrumented 'sentinel' sites with a distributed, community-run network of low-cost sensor systems deployed across UK inland waters and aims to measure emissions from rivers, lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs across gradients of human disturbance. A mobile instrument suite will enable detailed campaign-based assessment of vertical and spatial variations in fluxes and underlying processes at sites of interest across the UK.

GHG Aqua project components: 5 sentinel sites; distributed network; mobile sensor suite

This globally unique and highly integrated measurement system will transform our capability to quantify aquatic GHG emissions from inland waters.

Eddy covariance tower at Esthwaite Water with the team who installed it

Investing in state-of-the-art technology

Funding has enabled us to establish new monitoring and enhance existing capabilities, and we have equipped two sentinel sites, Loch Leven in Perthshire and Esthwaite Water in the English Lake District (pictured), with eddy covariance (EC) flux towers to measure greenhouse gases (GHGs) from lakes. These deployments are the first of their kind in the UK and the data generated will help to improve understanding of the role of inland waters in the global carbon cycle and their contribution to GHG emissions.

Network structure

We are including a range of waterbody types (e.g. lakes, reservoirs, ponds, flowing waters) and environmental gradients (e.g. land-use intensity and trophic status, upland and lowland). To provide broad but cost-effective geographic coverage, and to maximise the value of the network for project partners, we plan to establish a set of regional site clusters, ideally involving research, industry and NGO partners within each region.

Loch Leven and its eddy covariance tower

Project partner involvement

We have an extensive network of project partners, from research, higher education, water companies, government departments and conservation trusts. The project partner network is key to the success of GHG Aqua and potential roles for our partners include, but are not limited, to:

  • Hosting and supporting a sentinel site;
  • Supporting one or more distributed sensor sites;
  • Deploying the mobile sensor suite for campaigns at sites of interest;
  • Developing ideas for new projects and PhD studentships to take advantage of the GHG-Aqua measurement platforms;
  • Participating in knowledge exchange activities for the project and resultant monitoring networks as appropriate;
  • Examining how the network’s outputs can be used to inform policy initiatives.

If you would like to join as a GHG Aqua project partner, please contact Amy Pickard or Chris Evans.

Freshwater biogeochemist with an interest in carbon and greenhouse gas cycling, particularly within peatlands and their drainage systems.
Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem biogeochemist, with a focus on semi-natural and managed uplands and peatlands.