Netherland Journal of Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 3–4, pp 437–448 | Cite as

A review of nutrient enrichment in the estuaries of Scotland: Implications for the natural heritage

  • Scot Mathieson
  • Stephen M. Atkins
Environmental Assessment and Management


The present nutrient status of 43 rivers entering Scottish estuaries and firths is reviewed using monitoring data for nitrogen concentrations from the river purification authorities and other sources. Nitrogen concentrations range from very low, with no evidence of elevated levels, to a small number of sites which are highly nitrogen-enriched. Only one estuary site, the Ythan in North-east Scotland, has been proposed as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, where a number of chemical and ecological criteria outlined in the EC Nitrate Directive have been met, with potential serious consequences for the natural heritage interests of the estuary. Evidence of nitrogen enrichment in the waters of other Scottish estuaries is discussed in relation to the nitrogen levels in the Ythan Estuary. In addition, the results of ecological studies are discussed for two sites of international importance for waders and waterfowl, viz. Montrose Basin and the Eden Estuary, where there is evidence that changes may be occurring in the intertidal ecology of these estuaries as a result of nutrient enrichment. Requirements for future monitoring and research on nutrient enrichment in the Ythan and other estuaries are discussed. A general approach to nitrogen reductions in the Ythan catchment is presented, in addition to alternative options which might have additional benefits for natural heritage interests.


nutrients enrichment nitrogen estuaries Scotland natural heritage 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scot Mathieson
    • 1
  • Stephen M. Atkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Aquatic Environments BranchScottish Natural HeritageEdinburghUK

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