Peatlands Connection to Water Quality
A Water Quality Monitoring project developed in partnership with Galloway Fisheries Trust.
This work seeks to inform our understanding of water quality within the context of Galloway landscape dynamics and landscape use, by gathering baseline data on water temperature and pH levels – specifically water acidification.
The selected watercourse is Cooran Lane/ The Upper Blackwater of Dee, which flows alongside Silver Flowe - a 620 ha Ramsar peatland site - the recently (2019) restored area of peatland at South Dee (formerly conifer forestry), forestry, and riparian areas without shading.
Areas in Galloway such as Loch Grannoch and Loch Fleet are well documented with regards to the effects of water acidification on fish populations. Where artificial drainage, deep peat, conifer forestry, and bedrock such as granite are combined, sampling in similar catchments suggests these conditions can create a ‘perfect storm’ for low pH levels. Low pH levels can have significant impacts on the life cycles of fish, for example Salmonids (Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) and Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)). In severe cases low pH (high acidification) causes fish mortality.
Water temperature is also a critical variable in determining the health of a water course; warmer water contains less oxygen. Temperature is critical for the welfare of aquatic populations, for example: when water temperature reaches 20 – 21°C, native brown trout experience stress and begin to struggle; the incipient lethal temperature for Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) is 24.7°C degrees . Alarmingly, on one day in 2021 a temperature of 29.3°C was recorded in a Galloway watercourse. Warm water is a threat to aquatic life. Accordingly, understanding water temperature variability is crucial for river conservation and protection.
The Cooran Lane/Upper Blackwater of Dee water catchment is currently unmonitored for temperature and pH levels. Anecdotally, we believe we are beginning to see first-hand the effects of climate change in Galloway. To assist in future landscape decision making and mitigating action, data collection along Cooran Lane/ The Upper Blackwater of Dee will hopefully alert us to ‘hot spots’ as well as naturally occurring regulating areas.
Continuous temperature monitoring: Three Tinytag monitors will be installed along Cooran Lane/ The Upper Blackwater of Dee, in accordance to Scotland River Temperature Monitoring Network (SRTMN) guidance. Each will be fixed in place within the water channel to continually monitor the water temperature. Data will be collected, collated, and compared with known critical limits for salmonids.
Spot sampling: Anecdotal evidence suggests there may be a correlation between conifer plantations, deep peat, granite bedrock and low pH pulses following heavy precipitation. Multiple spot samples from both the water course and artificial drainage networks within the water catchment will be collected during periods of heavy rainfall when low pH pulses are most likely to occur. From these samples, we will also record electrical conductivity and total dissolved solids. In comparison, spot samples will also be collected during more moderate weather conditions. A citizen science approach will be applied for some of the spot sampling, specifically, in association with off road mountain bike riders. All data will be collected, collated, and compared with known critical limits for salmonids.
Contextualising The Landscape – an arts approach: The scientific approach will generate water quality data at three sites, over a ten-month period. However, it cannot generate a holistic picture of the landscape dynamics, or the nature supported along this river catchment. To deeper understand the landscape context and embed the scientific data within a sense of place, Peatland Connections looks to commission an artist who will work in residence and collaboration with the team to contextualize the Cooran Lane/ Upper Blackwater of Dee catchment.
All data, inclusive of the arts approach, will be published here and shared with our partner The Galloway Fisheries Trust and the SRTMN.
 Jonsson, B., & Jonsson, N. (2011). Climatic Effects on Atlantic Salmon and Brown Trout. Ecology of Atlantic Salmon and Brown Trout, 473–515. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-1189-1_9