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Scientists explore loch’s hidden depths

University of St Andrews scientists have teamed up with French experts this week, to explore a remote Scottish sea loch for secrets of climate change.

Dr Richard Bates and Dr William Austin from the University’s School of Geography and Geosciences, are spending the week investigating the hidden environments of Loch Sunart on the West Coast of Scotland.

In collaborating with a group of French scientists, led by Dr.Agnes Baltzer of the University of Caen, Drs Bates and Austin hope to determine the history of climate change in the area over the last 18,000 years.

The team, who have been conducting investigations of this remote loch for the last three years, are conducting a detailed geophysical survey using acoustic technologies to gather images of the bottom sediment of the loch.

By analysing tiny organisms contained in the sediment, they hope to determine the nature and history of climactic changes over thousands of years. Not only will they be able to go as far back as the last Ice Age, they will also be able to look in depth at more recent periods such as the medieval era.

“This loch contains important archives of climate history. From the sediment we can reconstruct the climate of the past and look at how the environment has changed at this site since the last Ice Age,” said Dr Austin.

“We are investigating the key to understanding climate change. These sea lochs are incredibly important as they contain ‘signatures’ which can be used to detect global climactic changes of the past. This loch in particular has some good deep areas, and particularly long records of sediment which contain these signatures. More importantly, not only can these records tell us about the past, they can help us predict future climate change,” added Dr Bates.

Loch Sunart, one of the longest sea lochs in Scotland, is situated on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular, and is up to 120m deep and 28km long.

The group, who complete their investigation tomorrow, have already gathered some data of interest. It is the first time that Dr Baltzer and her team have investigated a Scottish loch.

“This is a great opportunity for us to be working with the St Andrews team here. I am very impressed by the conditions here, and because the Scottish sea lochs act like a sediment trap, they preserve the sediment very well,” she said.

The sea lochs on Scotland’s west coast are some of Europe’s most pristine natural environments and have been the focus of European legislation, aimed at protecting the natural habitats and resources they contain.

The group from St. Andrews are contributing to this debate and providing information on the long- term natural variability and recent climate change, which has influenced this part of Scotland.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION, DR BATES AND DR AUSTIN ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW TODAY ON MOBILE 07713 630172.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: loch sunart pr 290802 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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