The Impact of Climate Change on Lakes in Britain and Ireland

  • Glen George
  • Eleanor Jennings
  • Norman Allott
Part of the Aquatic Ecology Series book series (AQEC, volume 4)


The CLIME studies in Western Europe were confined to a relatively small number of lakes situated in Britain and Ireland. In this chapter, we use the terms ‘Britain’ and ‘Ireland’ when describing the location of the lakes and the term ‘British Isles’ to define the area covered by the weather typing system devised by Lamb (1950). The climate of Britain and Ireland is notoriously variable and is strongly influenced by the movement of weather systems across the Atlantic (Barrow and Hulme, 1997). Winters are typically mild and wet but there are large year-to-year variations in the seasonal distribution of the rainfall. The variable nature of the climate has a pronounced effect on the physical characteristics of the lakes and the flux of nutrients (Allott, 1986; George et al., 2004). In this chapter, we review the climatic changes projected for the region and assess their potential impact on the dynamics of the lakes.


Shallow Lake North Atlantic Oscillation Gulf Stream Weather Type Winter Rainfall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The CLIME project was supported under contract EVK1-CT-2002-00121 with the Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (EESD) Programme of the 5th EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The results reported for the English lakes were acquired by staff from the Freshwater Biological Association, the Institute of Freshwater Ecology and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. We thank them all for their support and their continued commitment to long-term monitoring in the Lake District. The results for the Irish lakes were collated by the Marine Institute, County Mayo, Kerry County Council and the UCD Killarney valley project. We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of our partners Russell Poole and the staff of the Marine Institute, Newport, who were responsible for the monitoring and research at Lough Feeagh. Thanks are also due to Diane Hewitt for help with data processing, Margaret Hurley for statistical advice and Patrick Samuelsson, from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, for providing the maps of the projected changes in the climate.


  1. Allott, N.A. (1986) Temperature, oxygen and heat budgets of six small, westerly Irish Lakes, Freshwater Biology 16, 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allott, N.A. and Jennings, E. (2006) The position of the Gulf Stream and lake nitrate concentrations in southwest Ireland, Aquatic Sciences 68, 482–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allott, N., Jennings, E. and Duffy, A. (2008) Rainfall distribution in a catchment in Southwest Ireland: implications for catchment modelling, Verhandlungen der Internationalen Vereinigung für Theoretische und Angewandte Limnologie, 30, 431–434.Google Scholar
  4. Arnell, N.W. (1999) The effect of climate change on hydrological regimes in Europe: a continental perspective, Global Environmental Change 9, 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnell, N.W. and Delaney, E.K. (2006) Adapting to climate change: public water supplies in England and Wales, Climatic Change 78, 227–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bailey-Watts, A.E., Kirika, A., May, L. and Jones, D.H. (1990) Changes in phytoplankton over various time scales in a shallow, eutrophic loch: the Loch Leven experience with special reference to the influence of flushing rate, Freshwater Biology 23, 85–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barrow, E. and Hulme, M. (1997) Describing the surface climate of the British Isles. In: M. Hulme and E. Barrow, (eds.), Climates of the British Isles, Routledge, London and New York, 454 pp.Google Scholar
  8. Blenckner, T. and Chen, D. (2003) Comparison of the impact of regional and north-atlantic atmospheric circulation on an aquatic ecosystem, Climatic Change 23, 131–136.Google Scholar
  9. Blenckner, T., Adrian, R., Livingstone, D.M., Jennings, E., Weyhenmeyer, G.A., Nic Aonghusa, C., George, D.G., Jankowski, T., Järvinen, M., Nõges, T., Straile, D. and Teubner, K. (2007) Large-scale climatic signatures in lakes across Europe: a meta-analysis, Global Change Biology 13, 1314–1326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blindow, I., Anderssen, G., Hargeby, A. and Johansson, S. (2006) Long-term pattern of alternative stable states in two shallow eutrophic lakes, Freshwater Biology 30, 159–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Briffa, K.R., Jones, P.D. and Kelly, P.M. (1990) Principal component analysis of the Lamb Classification of daily weather types: Part 2, seasonal frequencies and update to 1987, International Journal of Climatology 10, 549–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bunting, L., Leavitt, P.R., Gibson, C.E., McGee, E.J. and Hall, V.A. (2007) Degradation of water quality in Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, by diffuse nitrogen flux from a phosphorus-rich catchment, Limnology and Oceanography 52, 354–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carpenter, S.R. (1996) Microcosm experiments have limited relevance for community and ecosystem ecology, Ecology 77, 677–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Casey, H. and Clarke, R.T. (1979) Statistical analysis of nitrate concentrations from the River Frome (Dorset) for the period 1965–1976, Freshwater Biology 9, 91–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Charlton, R., Fealy, R., Moore, S., Sweeney, J.C. and Murphy, C. (2006) Assessing the impact of climate change on water supply and flood hazard in Ireland usings statistical down-scaling and hydrological modelling techniques, Climatic Change 74, 475–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clark, J.M., Chapman, P.J., Adamson, J.K. and Lane, S.N. (2005) Influence of drought-induced acidification on the mobility of dissolved organic carbon in peat soils, Global Change Biology 11, 791–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evans, C.D., Chapman, P.J., Clark, J.M., Monteith, D.T. and Cresser, M.S. (2006) Alternative explanations for rising dissolved organic carbon export from organic soils, Global Change Biology. 12, 2044–2053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. George, D.G. and Harris, G.P. (1985) The effect of climate on long-term changes in the crustacean zooplankton biomass of Lake Windermere, UK, Nature 316, 536–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. George, D.G. and Jones, D.H. (1987) Catchment effects on the horizontal distribution of phytoplankton in five of Scotland’s largest freshwater lochs, Journal of Ecology 75, 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. George, D.G., Hewitt, D.P., Lund, J.W.G. and Smyly, W.J.P. (1990) The relative effects of enrichment and climate change on the long-term dynamics of Daphnia in Esthwaite Water, Freshwater Biology 23, 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. George, D.G. (1992) Physical and chemical scales of pattern in freshwater lakes and reservoirs, Journal of the Total Environment 135, 1–15.Google Scholar
  22. George, D.G. and Taylor, A.H. (1995) UK Lake plankton and the Gulf Stream, Nature London, 378, 139.Google Scholar
  23. George, D.G., Talling, J.F. and Rigg, E. (2000) Factors influencing the temporal coherence of five lakes in the English Lake District, Freshwater Biology 43, 449–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. George, D.G. (2000a) Using climate indicators to monitor patterns of change in freshwater lakes and reservoirs. In: J.A.A. Jones, K. Gilman, A. Jigorel and J.Griffin (eds.), Water in the Celtic World, British Hydrological Society, Occasional Paper No. 11, 93–102.Google Scholar
  25. George D.G. (2000b) De-coupling natural and anthropogenic sources of variation in the lakes of the English Lake District, Verhandlungen der Internationalen Vereinigung der Limnologie 27, 321–325.Google Scholar
  26. George, D.G. (2000d) The impact of regional-scale changes in the weather on the long-term dynamics of Eudiaptomus and Daphnia in Esthwaite Water, Cumbria, Freshwater Biology 43, 111–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. George, D.G. (2002) Regional-scale influences on the long-term dynamics of lake plankton. In: P.J. Le B. Williams, D.N. Thomas and C.S. Reynolds (eds.), Phytoplankton Production, Blackwell Scientific, Oxford, 265–290.Google Scholar
  28. George, D.G. and Hurley, M.A. (2003) Using a continuous function for residence time to quantify the impact of climate change on the dynamics of thermally stratified lakes, Journal of Limnology 62, 21–26.Google Scholar
  29. George, D.G., Maberly, S.C. and Hewitt, D.P. (2004) The influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation on the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of four lakes in the English Lake District, Freshwater Biology 49, 760–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. George, D.G., Hewitt, D.P. and Bridgman, T. (2005). The impact of long-term changes in the weather on the quality of the water in the Queen Elzabeth II reservoir (Thames Valley, UK), Freshwater Forum 23, 93–104.Google Scholar
  31. George, D.G., Bell, V.A., Parker, J. and Moore, R.J. (2006) Using a 1-D mixing model to assess the potential impact of year-to-year changes in the weather on the habitat of vendace (Coregonus albula) in Bassenthwaite Lake, Cumbria, Freshwater Biology 51, 1407–1416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. George, D.G. and Hewitt, D.P. (2006) The impact of year-to-year changes in the weather on the dynamics of Daphnia in a thermally stratified lake, Aquatic Ecology 40, 33–47.Google Scholar
  33. George, D.G. (2007) The impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation on the development of ice on Lake Windermere, Climatic Change 81, 455–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. George, D.G., Hewitt, D.P., Jennings, E., Allott, N. and McGinnity, P. (2007a) The impact of changes in the weather on the surface temperatures of Windermere (UK) and Lough Feeagh (Ireland), In: Water in Celtic Countries: Quantity, Quality and Climatic Variability, Proceedings of the Fourth Inter Celtic Colloquium on Hydrology and Management of Water Resources, Guimaraes, Portugal, July 2005, IAHS Publications 310, 86–93.Google Scholar
  35. George, D.G., Hurley, M.A. and Hewitt, D.P. (2007b) The impact of climate change on the physical characteristics of the larger lakes in the English Lake District, Freshwater Biology 52, 1647–1666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Groffman, P.M. and Tiedje, J.M. (1991) Relationships between de-nitrification, CO2 production and air-filled porosity in soils of different texture and drainage, Soil Biology and Biochemistry 23, 299–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hawkes, H.A. (1969) Ecological changes of applied significance from waste heat. In: P.A. Krenkel and F.L. Parker (eds.), Biological Aspects of Thermal Pollution, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 15–53.Google Scholar
  38. Hughes, M., Hornby, D.D., Bennion, H., Kernan, M., Hilton, J., Phillips, G. and Thomas, R. (2004) The development of a GIS-based inventory of standing waters in Great Britain together with a risk-based prioritisation protocol, Water, Air and Soil Pollution 4, 73–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hulme, M. and Barrow, E. (1997) Climates of the British Isles, Routledge, London and New York, pp. 454.Google Scholar
  40. Hulme, M., Jenkins, G.J., Lu, X., Turnpenny, J.R., Mitchell, T.D., Jones, R.G., Lowe, J., Murphy, J.M., Hassell, D., Boorman, P., McDonald, R. and Hill, S. (2002) Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom: The UKCIP02 Scientific Report, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. 120 pp.Google Scholar
  41. Hurrell, J.W., Kushnir, Y., Ottersen, G. and Visbeck, M. (2003) An overview of the North Atlantic Oscillation. In: J.W. Hurrell, Y. Kushnir, G. Ottersen and M. Visbeck (eds.), The North Atlantic Oscillation: Climatic Significance and Environmental Impact. American Geophysical Union, Washington, pp. 1–35.Google Scholar
  42. Jenkinson, A.F. and Collison, B.P. (1977) An initial climatology of gales over the North Sea. Synoptic Climatology Branch Memorandum, No 62, Bracknell, Meteorological Office.Google Scholar
  43. Jennings, E., Allott, N., McGinnity, P., Poole, R., Quirke, W., Twomey, H. and George, D.G. (2000) The North Atlantic Oscillation: effects on freshwater systems in Ireland, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 100, 149–157.Google Scholar
  44. Jennings, E. and Allott, N. (2006) Position of the Gulf Stream influences lake nitrate concentrations in SW Ireland, Aquatic Sciences 68, 482–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Jeppesen, E., Søndergaard, M. and Christoffersen, K. (1997) The structuring role of submerged macrophytes in lakes, Ecological Studies 131, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  46. Jeppesen, E., Lauridsen, T.L., Kairesalo, T. and Perrow, M.R. (1998). Impact of submerged macrophytes on fish-zooplankton interactions in lakes. In: E. Jeppesen, M. Søndergaard, M. Søndergaard and K. Kristoffersen (eds.), Structuring Role of Submerged Macrophytes in Lakes, Springer-Verlag, New York, 91–114.Google Scholar
  47. Jones, P.D. and Kelly, P.M. (1982) Principal component analysis of the Lamb classification of daily weather types. Part 1: annual frequencies, Journal of Climatology 2, 147–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kelly, P.M., Jones, P. and Briffa, K. (1997) Classifying the winds and the weather. In: M. Hulme and E. Barrow (eds.), Climates of the British Isles, Routledge, London and New York, 454 pp.Google Scholar
  49. Krivtsov, V., Sigee, D. and Bellinger, E. (2001) A one-year study of the Rostherne Mere ecosystem: seasonal dynamics of water chemistry, plankton, internal nutrient release and implications for long-term trophic status and overall functioning of the lake, Hydrological Processes 15, 1489–1506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lain, P., Bigot, J., Ourry, A. and Bouccaud, J. (1994) Effects of low temperature on nitrate uptake and xylem and phloem flows of nitrogen in Secale sereale L. and Brassica napus L, New Phytologist 127, 675–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lamb, H.H. (1950) Types and spells of weather around the year in the British Isles, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 76, 393–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Macan, T.T. (1970) Biological Studies of the English Lakes. Longman, London, pp. 260Google Scholar
  53. Maitland, P.S. (1981) The Ecology of Scotland’s Largest Lochs, Junk, The Hague, 312 pp.Google Scholar
  54. Maitland, P.S., Boon, P.J. and McLusky, D.S. (1994) The Fresh Waters of Scotland: a national resource of international significance, Wiley, London, 639 pp.Google Scholar
  55. May, L., Place, P., O’Hea, B., Lee, M., Dillane, M. and McGinnity, P. (2005) Modelling soil erosion and transport in the Burrishoole catchment, Newport, Co.Mayo, Ireland, Freshwater Forum 23, 139–154.Google Scholar
  56. McDiffet, W.F., Beidler, A.W., Dominick, T.F. and McCrea, K.D. (1989) Nutrient concentration-stream discharge relationship during storm events in a first-order stream, Hydrobiologia 179, 97–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McKee, D., Atkinson, D., Collings, S.E., Eaton, J.W., Gill, A.B., Harvey, I., Hatton, K., Wilson, D. and Moss, B. (2003) Response of freshwater microcosm communities to nutrients, fish, and elevated temperature during winter and summer, Limnology and Oceanography 48, 707–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Meyer, J.C. and Likens, G.E. (1979) Transport and transformation of phosphate in a forest stream ecosystem, Ecology 60, 1255–1269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mitchell, G.N. and McDonald, A.T. (1992) Discolouration of water by peat following induced drought and rainfall simulations, Water Research 26, 321–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Monteith, D.T., Evans, C.D and Reynolds, B. (2000) Are temporal variations in the nitrate content of UK upland waters linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation? Hydrological Process 14, 1745–1749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moss (2001) The Broads, Collins New Naturalist, 336 pp.Google Scholar
  62. Moss, B., McKee, D., Atkinson, D., Collings, S.E., Eaton, J.W., Gill, A.B., Harvey, I., Hatton, K., Heyes, T. and Wilson, D. (2003) How important is climate? Effects of warming, nutrient addition and fish on phytoplankton in shallow lake microcosms, Journal of Applied Ecology 40, 782–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Moss, B., Madgwick, J. and Phillips, G. (1996) A guide to the restoration of nutrient-enriched shallow lakes, Broads Authority, Norwich, 179 pp.Google Scholar
  64. Naden, P.S. and McDonald, A.T. (1989) Statistical modelling of water colour in the uplands: the upper Nidd catchment 1979–1987, Environmental Pollution 60, 141–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Paerl, H.W. and Huiseman, J. (2008) Blooms like it hot, Science 320, 57–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Paeth, H. Hense, A. and Glowienka-Hense, R. (1999) The North Atlantic Oscillation as an indicator for greenhouse-gas induced regional climate change, Climate Dynamics 15, 953–960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Patrick, R. (1969) Some effects of temperature on freshwater algae. In: P.A. Krenkel and F.L. Parker (eds.), Biological Aspects of Thermal Pollution, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, TN, 161–185.Google Scholar
  68. Pickering, A.D. (2001) Windermere: restoring the health of England’s largest lake. Special Publication, No.11, Freshwater Biological Association, Windermere. 126 pp.Google Scholar
  69. Reynolds, C.S. (1984) The Ecology of Freshwater Phytoplankton, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 384 pp.Google Scholar
  70. Reynolds, B., Emmett, B.A. and Woods, C (1992) Variations in streamwater nitrate concentrations and nitrogen budgets over 10 years in a headwater catchment in mid-Wales, Journal of Hydrology 136, 155–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Reynolds, C.S. (1993) Scales of disturbance and their role in plankton ecology, Hydrobiologia 249, 157–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Reynolds, J.D. (1998) Ireland’s Freshwaters. SIL Publication, Marine Institute, Dublin, 130 pp.Google Scholar
  73. Schmidt, W. (1928) Über temperature- und Stabilitätsverhkaltnisse von Seen, Geographical Annals 10, 145–177.Google Scholar
  74. Scheffer, M. (1990) Multiplicity of stable states in freshwater systems, Hydrobiologia 200/201, 475–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Scheffer, M. and Jeppesen, E. (1998) Alternative stable states. In: E. Jeppesen, M. Søndergaard, M. Søndergaard and K. Kristoffersen (eds.), Structuring Role of Submerged Macrophytes in Lakes, Springer-Verlag, New York, 397–406.Google Scholar
  76. Scheffer, M. and Jeppesen, E. (2007) Regime shifts in shallow lakes, Ecosystems 10, 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Scholefield, D., Tyson, K.C., Garwood, E.A., Armstrong, A.C., Hawkins, J. and Stone, A.C. (1993) Nitrate leaching from a grazed grassland lysimeter: effects of fertiliser input, field drainage, age of sward and patterns of weather, Journal of Soil Science 44, 601–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Sharpley, A.N. and Syers, J.K. (1979) Phosphorus inputs into a stream draining an agricultural watershed: II. Amounts and relative significance of runoff types, Water, Air and Soil Pollution 11, 417–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Straile, D., Livingstone, D.M., Weyhenmeyer, G.A. and George, D.G. (2003) The response of freshwater ecosystems to climate variability associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation, In: J.W. Hurrell, Y. Kushnir, G. Ottersen and M. Visbeck (eds.), The North Atlantic Oscillation: Climate significance and environmental impact, American Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph Series Volume 134, 263–279.Google Scholar
  80. Stronge, K.M., Lennox, S.D., and Smith, R.V. (1997) Predicting nitrate concentrations in Northern Ireland rivers using time series analysis, Journal of Environmental Quality 26, 1599–1604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Talling, J.F. (1971) The underwater light climate as a controlling factor in the production ecology of freshwater phytoplankton, Mitteilungen der Internationalen Vereinigung für Theoretische und Angewandte Limnologie 17, 214–243.Google Scholar
  82. Talling, J.F. (1999) Some English Lakes as Diverse and Active Ecosystems: a Factual Summary and Source Book. Freshwater Biological Association, UK. 80 pp.Google Scholar
  83. Taylor, A.H. and Stephens, J.A. (1980) Latitudinal displacements of the Gulf Stream (1966–1977) and their relation to changes in temperature and zooplankton abundance in the NE Atlantic, Oceanology Acta 3, 145–149.Google Scholar
  84. Taylor, A.H. (1996) North-south shifts of the Gulf Stream: ocean-atmosphere interactions in the North Atlantic, International Journal of Climatology 16, 559–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Thackerey, S.J., Jones, I.D. and Maberly, S.C. (2008) Long-term change in the phenology of spring phytoplankton: species-specific responses to nutrient enrichment and climatic change, Journal of Ecology 96, 523–535.Google Scholar
  86. Tunney, H., Foy, R.H. and Carton, O. (1998) Phosphorus in run-off following manure application to arable land. In: J.G. Wilson (ed.), Eutrophication in Irish Waters, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. pp. 25–39.Google Scholar
  87. Watts, C.D., Naden, P.S., Machell, J. and Banks, J. (2001) Long-term variation in water colour from Yorkshire catchments, Science of the Total Environment 278, 57–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Weyhenmeyer, G.A., Blenckner, T. and Pettersson, K. (1999) Changes of the plankton spring outburst related to the North Atlantic Oscillation, Limnology and Oceanography 44, 1788–1792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilby, R.L., O’Hare, G. and Barnsley, N. (1997) The North Atlantic Oscillation and British Isles climate variability, 1865–1996, Weather 52, 266–276.Google Scholar
  90. Willis, A.J., Dunnett, N.P., Hunt, R. and Grime, J.P. (1995) Does Gulf Stream position affect vegetation dynamics in Western Europe? Oikos 73, 408–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Worrall, F., Burt, T. and Adamson, J. (2004) Can climate change explain increases in DOC flux from upland peat catchments? Science of the Total Environment 326, 95–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Zhou, Q., Gibson, C.E. and Foy, R.H. (2000) Long-term changes of nitrogen and phosphorus loadings to a large lake in north west Ireland. Water Research 34, 922–926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Knott EndWindermereUK
  2. 2.Department of Applied SciencesDundalk Institute of TechnologyDundalkIreland
  3. 3.Centre for the Environment, Trinity CollegeDublin 2Ireland

Personalised recommendations