- High quality, long-term time series are essential to calibrate models that can then be used to predict likely future behaviour, in response to changes in land use or climate change, for example.
- This is demonstrated by the use of ECN data from Lough Neagh, in Northern Ireland. The water quality and biota of the lough has been severely affected by chronic nutrient enrichment from agricultural and domestic sources. Potentially toxic cyanobacterial blooms, which thrive when levels of phosphorus are high, present a particular societal threat, since Lough Neagh provides drinking water to approximately one million people.
- The PROTECH phytoplankton response model, calibrated with ECN input data, was used to predict how the lough’s phytoplankton might respond to a potential increase in temperature driven by climate change and to a gradual reduction in nutrient load as a consequence of tighter controls on nutrient releases.
- The results suggest that future warming could simply lead to the replacement of one cyanobacterial species by another, unless phosphorus inputs are reduced more substantially.
Reference: Elliott, JA., McElarney, YR. and Allen, M. (2016). The past and future of phytoplankton in the UK's largest lake, Lough Neagh. Ecological Indicators, 68, 142-149. DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.07.015.