The UK UWMN not only provides definitive data on trends in the chemistry and biology of acid waters in the UK, it also supports UK policies on acid deposition and water quality, provides the evidence base for upland water management in the UK, and underpins both national and international research programmes on freshwater ecosystems.
The UK UWMN provides the evidence base to show the effectiveness of policy with respect to principal EU and UNECE legislation on acid deposition and surface waters in the UK. It contributes data to the UNECE International Cooperative Programme on the Assessment and Monitoring Effects of Air Pollution on Rivers and Lakes (ICP Waters) at the Focal Centre, NIVA, Oslo. Data from the UK UWMN has also been used to provide information on acidification status of Scottish rivers to NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation) to demonstrate improving status and was explicitly mentioned as an important source of data in the NASCO implementation plan for Scotland.
Management of upland waters
The UK UWMN is a major resource for organisations responsible for the management of upland water catchments in the UK, with many sites being located in SSSIs/SACs, and/or National Parks and National Trust land. These include:
- The Environment Agency (Water Framework Directive and Daughter Directive on priority substances)
- The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Water Framework Directive and Daughter Directive on priority substances)
- The Northern Ireland Executive (Water Framework, Daughter Directive on priority substances and Habitat Directives)
- Natural England (Habitats Directive)
- Natural Resources Wales (Habitats Directive)
- NatureScot (Habitats Directive)
- Forestry Commission (Forest and Water Guidelines).
Four UK UWMN lake sites are designated as part of the Environment Agency's Water Framework Directive (WFD) Lake Surveillance Network: Scoat Tarn, Burnmoor Tarn, Llyn Cwm Mynach and Llyn Llagi. The UK UWMN contributes the biological and chemical data required for this statutory monitoring. Network data and expertise were used in developing WFD acidification tools for diatoms and invertebrates and have been included in fish tool development for Scotland. Data from the Network continues to be useful in informing environmental standards and has been used indirectly to support the UK Rivers Task Team (RTT).
Several UK UWMN catchments are located in important drinking water catchment areas managed in association with water companies. Water chemistry analysis for the River Etherow, in the southern Pennines is supported by Moors for the Future, via support from United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent Water.
The UK UWMN has been central to acid waters research in the UK with respect to both international and national research programmes, underpinning the UK´s leading international position in this field. Key European projects include:
- Euro-limpacs, an integrated project under the EU´s 6th Framework programme on "The impacts of global change on European freshwater ecosystems" GOCE-CT-2003-505540, (2004-2009)
- WISER, an integrated project under the EU´s 7th Framework programme on "Water bodies in Europe: Integrative systems to assess ecological status and recovery" Project Code 226273, (2009-2012)
- REFRESH an integrated project under the EU´s 7th Framework programme on "Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems" Project Code 244121, (2010-2014)
- BIOFRESH an integrated project under the EU´s 7th Framework programme on "Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: Status, Trends, Pressures, and Conservation Priorities" Project Code 226874, (2010-2014).
Within the UK, the UK UWMN has been central to UK Government research through Defra. Under the Freshwater Umbrella programme current research uses the UK UWMN to support:
- Biogeochemical studies into the fate of deposited nitrogen (N) at UK UWMN catchments to quantify mass balances for N and develop critical load and dynamic models
- Palaeolimnological studies of lake sediment isotopes as indicators of nutrient N impacts
- Isotopic tracer and natural abundance studies of the fate of deposited N
- Nutrient bioassay studies into changing lake and stream productivity induced by N deposition.
These research programmes are heavily dependent on the long-term, high quality chemical and biological datasets available only from UK UWMN sites. They also benefit greatly from the co-location of United Kingdom Eutrophying & Acidifying Network (UKEAP) Precipitation Network sites with eight of the UK UWMN sites, with the direct aim of providing site specific deposition input data for computing mass balances and informing biogeochemical studies in areas of high scientific and conservation interest.
Beyond Government-funded research the UK UWMN is an invaluable resource for University and UKCEH-based research and teaching. These have included:
- The projects FREEDOM (Forecasting Risks for the Environmental Excacerbation of Dissolved Organic Matter on upland drinking water supplies) funded by NERC and Scottish Water, and FREEDOM-BCCR (Building Climate Change Resilience) funded by UKRI
- NERC standard grant (University of Leeds) to determine the influence of precipitation chemistry on DOC concentration
- NERC Ecology and Hydrology Funding Initiative grant (UKCEH Bangor) concerned with examining possible inter-relationships between sulphur, nitrogen and carbon dynamics in upland soils
- NERC grant for "A United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network" (UKLEON)
- Numerous PhD projects
- Teaching resource for several MSc. Programmes, including MSc dissertations based around UK UWMN data (UCL and QMUL)
- Leverhulme funded project on "Runoff processes and catchment hydrology" (Aberdeen University).