Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Volume 6 Number 1: Loch Linnhe and Firth of Lorn MASTS Case Study Workshop Report

Report on a case study workshop on the Loch Linnhe and Firth of Lorn (LL&FL) system.

DOI: 10.7489/1539-1

Gaps and Funding Sources

The workshop highlighted that there is quite a large amount of archived samples (mainly plankton) which could form the basis of further studies. Linking sample owners to analyst resource could remedy this. For example student projects could assist, although short-term student projects are problematic because of the amount of training in identification required. Discussions focused on the necessary activities/analyses needed to address the main drivers of scientific research in the system. Aquaculture, marine spatial planning and legislative frameworks have provided the main impetus for this (in addition to scientific curiosity). Funding sources identified included MASTS, research studentships, research council grants, and EU calls (although for the latter this would need to be influenced early in the research programme definition).

Some other potential avenues for collaboration were discussed:

Physical Environment

  • Influence of the spatial boundaries of hydrodynamic models with respect to particle tracking, i.e. reduce likelihood of particles accumulating at the boundaries.
  • Non-hydrostatic model developments to study fine-scale processes and fronts in the LL& FL system.
  • Non-linear processes such as bores travelling out of the loch from the Corran Narrows and other side lochs.
  • Sediment transport by near-bed currents.
  • Wave modelling.
  • The Firth of Lorn has been proposed to Defra as a coastal monitoring observatory to contribute to Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD) indicators (Tett and Fox, SAMS). The proximity to the SAMS Marine Laboratory would make this potentially quite cost-effective.
  • The loss of the Tiree passage oceanographic mooring due to funding cuts needs addressing. This mooring provided one of the few fixed monitoring sites on the Scottish west coast and provided insights into links between offshore processes and the coastal zone ( Inall et al, 2009).

Aquatic Ecosystem

  • LL& FL as a test-bed for ecosystem health assessments: this would give the opportunity of existing qualitative tools to provide the necessary assessment information, highlight missing datasets and assist development of improved assessment tools. The degree to which the LL& FL can be considered an isolated system requires further discussion.
  • LL& FL to provide insights in coastal ecosystem energy and nutrient budgets (through ecosystem modelling).
  • The seasonal patterns of zooplankton in LL and FL.
  • Influence of land use changes: based on data in Loch Creran, there is an opportunity to investigate changes in 1970s, 1990s and 2000s and the impact of climate change, land use change and fish farming on water quality in the LL& FL system.
  • Taxonomy of phytoplankton, zooplankton and nutrients - many opportunities to further extend these data based on archived samples held at SAMS, MSS and others.

Uses and Management

  • How can aquaculture carrying capacity be increased without damaging the ecosystem?
  • What are the cumulative impacts on the water bodies in the LL& FL system?
  • Cumulative impacts framework under development by SEPA, in collaboration with industry and SARF.
  • The Ministerial Group for Sustainable Aquaculture's Science and Research Working Group ( MGSA S& RWG) has highlighted between farm transmission mechanisms as a high priority for improvements in aquaculture health and welfare (


  • What are the top-down controls of zooplankton on the phytoplankton community and does aquaculture impact zooplankton community structure (through ecotoxicology of treatments). Ecotoxicological analysis has only been performed on one species, typically chemicals do not persist. However, emamectin benzoate peak concentration in environment occurs after 180 days, so some treatments persist more than others. Will this have ecosystem effects; is this included in the license assessment? Each license has a maximum chemical use component, maximum concentration of chemical in sediment determined by current i.e. energy of environment.

Research Ideas

  • Denitrification rates (self-cleansing mechanism).
  • Accurate representation of salinity gradients in hydrodynamics models.
  • Bio-optics i.e. light penetration - has this changed with changes in land use? And has this effected primary production (comparison with Loch Eil and 1991 LLP data)
  • Have changes in benthic filter feeders impacted primary productivity (investigation of Loch Creran data, insufficient data on the LL& FL system as a whole).
  • What is the driver for the moderate benthic status in the LL& FL system, as determined by Water Framework Directive assessments?
  • Monitoring changes in the SACs over time - is protection of these sites working?


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