Loch Leven with a swan in foreground and the castle in the background
Loch Leven

Science challenge

Detailed, long-term monitoring of lakes that are subject to multiple environmental, climatic and human pressures is essential to enable us to understand how lake ecosystems respond to change. These results provide the scientific evidence needed to inform decisions on lake restoration activities, especially those aimed at the more sustainable management of these types of systems, worldwide.

Project summary

Loch Leven has been monitored regularly since 1968. Current monitoring involves sampling every two weeks, all year, using standard methodologies. The results of this work have provided a research platform for many shorter term collaborative research projects, such as palaeolimnological assessments, investigations into climate change impacts and studies of macronutrient cycling. When additional sources of data are included, the Loch Leven data set spans more than 150 years and a wide range of variables including hydrology, chemistry, physics, macrophytes, algae, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, fish and wildfowl.

Loch Leven is a world famous trout fishery. It is a popular recreational lake, but is affected by pollutant inputs such as phosphorus. However, the phosphorus concentration has decreased dramatically since the mid 1990s, when discharges from local sources were reduced. The data collected by UKCEH and NatureScot - including information on biodiversity and supporting environmental variables - are of significant national and international importance. They are used widely by the international research community for studies on lake eutrophication and recovery processes, and impacts of changes in climate, land use and other human pressures. Uniquely, the data collected covers five trophic levels in the loch.


The Loch Leven project requires routine functions to maintain consistent annual delivery of operations and long-term development to enhance the provision of data products. The following objectives span both types of activity over the 5-year duration of the UK-SCAPE programme:

  • To maintain the long-term (> 53 years) monitoring of key chemical, physical and biological variables at Loch Leven, Scotland
  • To publish annual data summaries on EIDC
  • To use these data to underpin research by UKCEH and others on key environmental issues such as lake eutrophication and restoration, catchment management and the impacts of environmental change on biodiversity, ecosystem service delivery and resilience
  • To support research into the effects of changes in connectivity on freshwater ecosystem structure and function
  • To aid global scale assessments of the state of lakes and their response to climatic and other drivers of change
  • To validate data from a range of sources including earth observation, citizen science and automatic sensors
  • To support lake model development and testing of management scenarios.


Papers and reports

Further information


The Loch Leven project will produce a number of open access datasets during the programme. These are located on the UK-SCAPE Data Catalogue and will be available on EIDC. Examples include:


'Fly over' video:

The potential impact of installing a fish pass on the outflow from Loch Leven, Scotland:

Research facilities

  • Boat
  • Electronic sensors, including hydroacoustic survey equipment
  • Chemistry laboratories
  • Biological laboratories
  • Database.


UKCEH National Capability

  • Outputs from this project link to other UKCEH National Capability projects, such as those focused on model integration, resilience to environmental change, lake restoration and natural capital/ecosystem service delivery
  • Loch Leven provides evidence to inform and support the sustainable restoration of impacted waters in developing countries (e.g. Kenya, India, China, Indonesia) through the UKCEH SUNRISE programme.


  • Loch Leven data currently support a range of existing collaborative projects within UKCEH (e.g. NERC Hydroscape project, Scottish Government's RESAS Strategic Research Programme; several PhDs) and feed into annual, global scale, 'State of the Climate' reports
  • Data are shared with a range of conservation bodies, regulatory authorities, the local council and members of the Loch Leven stakeholder partnership to support day-to-day decision making within Scotland. These stakeholders also share a considerable amount of their own data with this project, which adds value to the data collected routinely
  • The River Leven Improvement Programme, which aims to improve the environment to reduce levels of deprivation in this ex-industrial landscape, includes Loch Leven. This is currently funded, collaboratively, by an ever increasing body of stakeholders, including SEPA, Fife Council, Sustrans, NatureScot, Scottish Water, Scottish Enterprise, Fife College, Forth Rivers Trust, Diageo, Central Scotland Green Network Trust and Keep Scotland Beautiful, providing a large and increasing user community for our data.

Project lead - Linda May