Water quality and biodiversity in the Ugie river catchment in Scotland

© Anja Byg

© James Hutton Team

© James Hutton Team

© Anja Byg

© Alexander Main

The Scottish case study region corresponds roughly to the north-eastern part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, centred around the watershed of the river Ugie, located between the towns of Peterhead in the east, Turiff in the west, Fraserburgh in the north and Ellon in the south. This area covers approximately 800 km2, corresponding to about 1% of Scotland’s land surface. The population density for the wider region (Aberdeenshire) is approximately 40.8 inhabitants/km2. The area is characterised by relatively intensive agriculture in a Scottish context.

Aberdeenshire as a whole accounts for ca. 26% of the arable area in Scotland though it only represents around 9% of Scotland’s land surface. The soils in the area are dominated by mineral gleys in the eastern part, mineral podzols in the western parts interspersed with smaller areas of brown soils and peaty soils. Most of the area falls within land capability classes 3.1 and 3.2, which is reflected in the mixture of arable and mixed agriculture which dominates in the area. Arable crops include barley (used as livestock feed as well as in the whisky industry), brassicas, potatoes and vegetables. The topography is more flat to the east and gradually becomes more varied and undulating towards the west. Apart from agriculture, the area is characterised by the fishing industry based in the nearby town of Peterhead. Similar to the situation in the rest of Aberdeenshire, the oil and gas industry provides another important source of employment in the area.

The two main public good issues identified by regional level stakeholders for the Ugie area are water quality and biodiversity. The relatively intensive agricultural production characterising the area is seen to influence both water quality and biodiversity negatively, though it is at the same time seen as something that contributes to other public goods in the form of food security, employment and rural vitality, as well as providing private goods in the form of income. In the case of water, the main problems are linked to the use of molluscicides (‘slug pellets’) as part of the area’s vegetable production, as well as farm yard run-off. This is seen as especially problematic because the river Ugie is used for drinking water abstraction. Consequently, the water has to be treated using expensive water treatment technologies before it can be safely used for human consumption. Other water related problems include riverbank erosion and reduced levels of aquatic biodiversity. Terrestrial biodiversity is impacted through loss of habitat as well as through some agricultural practices such as pesticide usage.


We carried out choice experiments with members of the public living in and around the Ugie river catchment (Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen city) to understand peoples preferences with regards to improvements in water condition and farmland biodiversity. Read more…

The study uses a participatory fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) approach, in order to analyse the interplay of a mix of mechanisms and other influencing factors on the provision of the public goods water quality and biodiversity. Read more…

Stakeholder Portal

Stakeholder Portal

Here you find outcomes of the participatory workshops and a discussion forum.

 

 

Contact for the case study region