Freshwater ecology is the study of the relationship between freshwater organisms and their environment. This includes the study of streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, reservoirs and some wetlands.

Freshwater ecosystems provide us with many valuable services. They purify our drinking water, supply irrigation for agriculture, recycle nutrients, help stem the severity of floods and droughts and support fisheries and recreation. They face many threats, however, including:

  • pollution from pesticides and fertilizers
  • climate change
  • habitat loss
  • drainage
  • invasive species
  • dam construction
  • over-use of water

To sustain good water quality and ecological health demands wide-ranging, intensive research on how freshwaters respond to these threats and how they improve in relation to management and restoration measures.

CEH work on freshwater ecology


CEH carries out freshwater ecology research at all its sites, conducting pioneering research on the ecological functioning of lake and river ecosystems. Long-term monitoring is an important component with flagship freshwater observatories across the UK.

We also undertake research at national, European and international scales, often in inter-disciplinary collaborations with CEH colleagues, universities, government agencies and industry. Examples include:

Monitoring sites

Research Facilities


Edinburgh (Laurence Carvalho)

Lancaster (Stephen Maberly)

Wallingford (Francois Edwards)

Watch a stunning video of some freshwater organisms sampled during CEH's lake monitoring programme


Collecting fish samples
Enabling assessment of chemical contamination in rivers
Global changes in lake temperatures over the past 25 years
Loch Leven part of global analysis
Ganges river, India
Outputs of December 2015 Science Workshop
Ganges near Haridwar. Photo: Mike Acreman
UK-India workshop on future research needs to underpin sustainable management of the Ganga
A boat at Derwentwater
Long-term science in a galaxy far, far away...
FEH Supplementary Report cover
Online access replaces CD-ROM
Windermere from Wansfell
Promoting evidence-based lakes management
Daphnia, a member of the crustracean group known as the Cladocera
Predation beneath the surface
Linlithgow Loch and Palace
CEH hosts international task team