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Title: The fish populations of the Lower Forth Estuary, including the environmental impact of cooling water extraction
Author(s): Greenwood, M F D
Issue Date: 2001
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The present study investigated the fish populations of the lower Forth Estuary, east Scotland. Cooling water extraction by the 2400 MW Longannet Power Station (LPS) inevitably removes a certain quantity of fish from the estuary, all of which experience mortality. The present study employed a sampling regime of greater intensity than previous studies to investigate the extent of mortalities from January 1999 - December 2000. Collections of fish impinged on intake screens were made eight times monthly, at LW or HW of spring or neap tides during the day or by night. Marine species dominated the assemblage of fish collected, with sprat, herring, and whiting contributing > 80% of total abundance. Sprat was twice as abundant as herring in 1999, while the proportions were very similar in 2000. Total abundance of all species collected in 1999 was estimated at 1. 09 x 107, while the value of 3.29 x 107 in 2000 was three times larger. These figures were the largest recorded among British estuarine and marine power stations, but were precisely the correct order based on an exponential relationship between total impingement and water abstraction rate established from data from other locations. Validation of the estimated total biomass of fish removed was given by comparison with the known total mass of all materials disposed to landfill. Statistical analysis of impingement data showed that tidal range and season were the most important environmental variables influencing the rate of removal of fish from the estuary. That light was not significant for most species is attributed to high levels of turbidity and the resulting low visibility by day and night. Demersal and benthic fish abundances collected from 1982 - 2000 in 30 annual trawls at three sites in the mid-lower Forth Estuary were analysed. Species tended to be present in greatest abundance at the most seaward of the sites. Patterns of seasonal abundance reflected those observed in the impingement study at LPS, and catches tended to be greatest at L W. Total species richness showed no significant trend over time, whilst total annual abundance of fish captured in trawls showed a significant negative trend. This was largely due to significant declines in the two most abundant species, namely whiting and eel pout, attributable in the latter case to increasing temperatures. Changes in the ichthyofaunal composition were largely driven by whiting, eel pout, cod and plaice. Eight of ten common species showed no significant trend in abundance over the length of the time series, suggesting them to perhaps be at equilibrium densities. Quantities of commercially fished species above minimum landing size limits that were removed by LPS were very low, and restricted to herring and occasional whiting. The quantity of juveniles that could have recruited into the fished populations was expressed as equivalent adults. The values were larger than any previously reported in the UK, primarily due to the quantities of juvenile fish impinged being greater than at any other British power station, and the importance of the Forth as a nursery area for marine species. It was concluded that LPS is the dominant UK power station in terms of magnitude of impingement losses. It may be prudent to consider a precautionary approach to mitigate losses, and to this end options for reduction of the magnitude of impingement are discussed.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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