NERC Understanding Changes in Quality of UK Freshwaters Call

Closing Date: 27/05/2022

Grants to investigate the changes in quality of UK freshwaters, particularly concerning how pollutants enter, transform and interact within rivers, and with the ecosystems that rivers support.

Understanding Changes in Quality of UK Freshwaters is a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funding call with the aim of investigating the changes in the quality of UK freshwaters.

The scheme seeks to address a significant gap in understanding of how pollutants enter, transform and interact within rivers, and with the ecosystems that rivers support. It will consider how the infiltration and movement of pollutants will be amplified or mitigated by a changing hydrological cycle induced by climate change and other catchment changes.

Through the improvement and development of tools to monitor and measure contamination, as well as collaboration and engagement with key stakeholders, the call will help the development of management and mitigation strategies for improving or sustaining the quality of rivers across the UK.

The overarching programme will enable transformative research in three thematic areas:

  • Better understanding of how climate and catchment changes are affecting the sources and processes by which pollutants are entering, mixing, being transported through and leaving river systems.
  • Investigating the impact of mixtures of chemical (and biological) contaminants and their exposure regimes on the quality, ecology and biodiversity of UK river ecosystems.
  • Enabling and informing the development of better plans for adaptation, mitigation and detection of risks associated with declining river quality, now and in the future.

Projects must address all three thematic areas as well as multiple and interacting stressors and catchment-wide flows and dynamics. Projects may take a process-based approach (eg considering agricultural runoff, sewage disposal into rivers or urban runoff) or focus on certain mixtures or mixture regimes of contaminants.

Projects should increase understanding of how chemical (and biological) contaminants enter, transform and interact within river systems, how that impacts on the quality of the ecosystems that they support, and how future risks to river quality related to climate and other changes impacting the hydrological cycle can be adapted and mitigated.

Research should take a systems-wide approach and outcomes where possible should be applicable across the UK. It is hoped that a variety of projects will be funded through the scheme, covering different elements and drivers of river quality in the UK.

Where appropriate, interdisciplinary approaches that bring together relevant experts from environmental science and other relevant disciplines and sectors in the UK are encouraged. NERC also encourages innovative collaborations, including those with intervention-focused organisations and practitioners, thereby creating a community of researchers and projects that span the three thematic areas of the programme. Collaborations should include steer from the UK government, devolved administrations, policy, regulators and industry. Projects must work closely with relevant stakeholders during the design phase and throughout the lifespan of the project.

Although projects must have a UK focus, they could include research outputs that may support learning internationally and have relevance globally.

Funding body Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Maximum value £2,000,000
Reference ID S23703
Category Natural Environment

Fund or call Fund