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A United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network (UKLEON)

Information about the UKLEON sensor network programme. Data for the network will be managed by the ECN Data Centre

Introduction & background

Freshwaters are extremely vulnerable to a wide range of stressors including climate change, eutrophication, invasion of alien species and acidification. At the same time they provide essential provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting ecosystem services including a Monitoring buoy on Blelham Tarnmajor rôle in the global carbon cycle. Because of their importance to society, most lakes are subject to legislation that sets stringent targets for water quality and biodiversity. Meeting these targets requires a detailed understanding of lake processes, which in turn requires measurements at an appropriate time scale. Traditional monitoring cannot resolve the processes driving many aspects of lake function because lake properties can be completely altered by short-term, meteorologically-driven physical disturbance and because the organisms that control lake function are often microbial with division times of the order of days.

Objectives of the network

UKLEON is a 3-year project funded by the NERC Sensor network programme. The primary technological objective of UKLEON is to establish the UK’s first coordinated, high-intensity lake monitoring network, based on an information system that will receive, process, quality control and disseminate limnological data delivered by an integrated instrumented network of automatic lake monitoring stations deploying state-of-the-art, self-cleaning sensors.

The scientific objectives will be delivered via three inter-linked demonstration science projects:

  1. real-time forecasting of lake behaviour
  2. the effect of meteorology on the fate of carbon within lakes
  3. the level of regional coherence in lake response on sub-seasonal timescales.

The network partnership

The project is led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology based at Lancaster and involves the following co-investigators:

  • Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bangor (Dr Chris Evans)
  • Glasgow University (Prof Susan Waldron)
  • Lancaster University (Prof Keith Beven)
  • Loughborough University (Dr David Ryves)
  • University College Lond (Prof John French)
  • UK Astronomy Technology Centre (Dr Andy Vick).


In addition, OTT Hydrometry Ltd and Lakeland Instrumentation are heavily involved in the technological aspects of the project. Aberystwyth University, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Natural Resources Wales, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Environment Agency, Lake District National Park Authority, The Marine Institute, Natural England, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Snowdonia National Park are partners on the project.

The lakes

There are 11 lakes in the network covering a large range of areas (Table 1) including lakes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Several of these sites are included in the Environmental Change Network or the Acid Waters Monitoring Network (AWMN). Data for all the sites will be managed by the ECN Data Centre.


Area (km2)


Blelham Tarn


Round Loch of Glenhead


Llyn Conwy


Rostherne Mere


Esthwaite Water


Llyn Tegid




Loch Leven




Loch Lomond


Lough Erne


A more detailed description of each lake will be provided soon.

The measurements

Each monitoring station will measure, at minute time-scales, meteorological conditions, temperature profiles with depth, concentration of oxygen, conductivity, pH, carbon dioxide, underwater light, chlorophyll a and phycocyanin (by fluorescence). Wherever possible, self-cleaning sensors will be used. Data from each station will be sent by telemetry to CEH. Real-time data will be made available on the web once it has been through an initial automated quality assurance process. The raw data will be stored and quality controlled to be used by the project participants. A final checked data set will be made available for academic use at the end of the project.

Although not officially linked, this work is similar in approach to the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network GLEON (

Further information

For more information see the UKLEON pages of the CEH website or contact Prof. Stephen Maberly (