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Scottish rivers are warming, Hutton research shows

Monitoring water temperature in the river Spey (c) Paul Glendell
"We modelled the water temperature of the river Spey as the first step towards assessing how future changes in climate, land-use, management, industry and water use might influence river temperatures"

Scientists from the James Hutton Institute have found that waters in Scottish rivers are reaching record-breaking warm temperatures, which may have implications for rural economies across the country.

By comparing historical records kept by the Tulchan Estate with hydroclimatic datasets, Dr Rachel Helliwell and Dr Ina Pohle were able to spot an increase of 2-3°C in the water temperature of the river Spey over the last 105 years.

This result is particularly important given the exceptionally hot and dry summer this year, where temperatures in a tributary of the river Dee reached a record high of 27.573°C on 28th June 2018.

Dr Helliwell said water temperatures are hugely important as they affect the distribution, health and survival of Scotland’s iconic cold-water fish populations, with angling alone contributing £113 million per year to the Scottish rural economy.

“Cold-water fish like salmon or trout will experience adverse health effects when exposed to temperatures outside their optimal range. High temperatures are a threat: brown trout stop feeding at temperatures above 20°C, and sustained water temperatures above 30°C are lethal.

“With water temperatures of 27°C and 25°C recorded in Scotland in 2013 and 2014, climate change is a threat to Scottish rivers. With an expected increase in air temperature of 4°C by 2080, there are concerns about the potential impact on fish populations and other species in our warmest rivers.”

The increase in water temperature can be attributed to rising air temperatures in spring, less snow accumulation during winter, and earlier snowmelt. However, understanding what controls river temperatures is complex.

“We modelled the water temperature of the river Spey as the first step towards assessing how future changes in climate, land-use, management, industry and water use might influence river temperatures,” Dr Helliwell added.

The research team are speaking to estate managers, policy makers and regulators to highlight the root of the problem and plan to demonstrate management options including riparian woodland to enhance the resilience of rivers to change.

Watch a short video produced by Paul Glendell and Hutton scientists to explain the research:

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Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/scottish-rivers-are-warming-hutton-research-shows on 13/12/18 04:10:28 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.