Following recent rain I was back up at Loch Doon today to continue our pH monitoring on a number of the tributaries that enter the loch. A couple of our monitoring sites require a walk out across some rough, tussocky hills. Everyone else in the office suddenly had full diaries today, I suspect as the Trust’s resident hill walker this type of thing falls under my remit.
Our pH monitoring is helping us develop our understanding of how pH fluctuates with water levels, times of year etc. Burns may have a fairly neutral pH at normal flows but can become more acidic with increased water levels, or with alterations in land use e.g. forestry being felled. Monitoring the pH at a variety of flow heights and times of year allows us to more fully understand the potential impacts to fish. Salmon eggs are generally less able to cope with low pH and acidic flushes than trout eggs are. However there is a point where if eggs are exposed to very acidic water (typically when pH drops below 4.5) the outer shell hardens and the alevin inside cannot ‘burst’ the outer casing and dies inside the egg.
I was blessed with a fantastic autumnal day and as I walked out to a site on Eglin Lane I was feeling quite fortunate to be out on the hill, that was until my leg sank into a boggy ditch.
We will continue to collect data over the coming weeks and months as the larger the dataset the more robust the evidence. Given the geology of the area and the large areas of coniferous forestry it is expected that the water in this area leans towards being more acidic. But just how acidic the water becomes is crucial to understanding what the limitations in this area are and if there may be a mitigation solutions available.
When working in these environments it is vital that every precaution to maintain safety is taken, our Spot Me Track Me Finders allow us to send a message by email and text to designated members of staff in the office. Checking in at regular predetermined intervals keeps us safe and gives everybody else piece of mind. Another feature of these devices is an SOS button and if activated the might of the emergency services will jump into action.