Appendix 3 – Research and knowledge gaps
Despite the wealth of knowledge which exists about the Solway there are still many gaps in knowledge and information. This is due to a variety of reasons including gaps in monitoring, collection, technological limitations, unknown variables of the marine environment, and the fact that the future is unknown, and changeable depending on actions and impacts. There are also many unknowns about the marine environment.
There may be research or projects ongoing or created in relation to these data gaps and nothing within this section is intended to undermine or question new, ongoing or past research, data or information. In a constantly evolving knowledge base there will be ongoing changes to the knowledge gaps which currently exist for the marine environment.
Solway specific data can be scattered and limited at times, covering parts of the coastline, one side of the Firth but not the other, or are project specific. The different spatial scales, and locations of data and information is not necessarily a data gap, despite some data being consistent across boundaries, but can be a barrier to forming a full picture of the Solway Firth ecosystem.
There is limited regional specific data for many sections within the Solway Review, for example, dissolved oxygen, and spatially and temporally limited data for salinity. Within Scotland’s Marine Assessment, many of the topics lacking regionally specific data are identified. Furthermore, some of the assessments within Scotland’s Marine Assessment have been conducted at the scale of the four Scottish biogeographic regions. The Solway forms part of a biogeographic region called the ‘Irish Sea’ along with the Clyde. Although this allows conclusions to be drawn and topics assessed, the results may be less representative of the rural, shallow Solway which is a very different marine region to the neighbouring busy and industrialised Clyde region. The biogeographic data reported from monitoring stations, is more often from the Clyde rather than the Solway, sometimes significantly more. For example, out of the 9 monitoring stations used to assess the status and trend for PAH/PYR1OGEQ concentrations in shellfish in the ‘Irish Sea’, 8 of these stations were located in the Clyde and only 1 in the Solway. The Marine Assessment does at times differentiate within the biogeographic region if one marine region has more concerns etc. For example, the ‘external fish disease’ assessment status for the Irish Sea (Clyde and Solway) biogeographic region outlines ‘many local concerns, particularly in the Clyde, with some sites exceeding the OSPAR Environmental Assessment Criteria/OSPAR Environmental Assessment Criteria-proxy’ (Moffat et al, 2020).
All sections within the Solway Review will have data gaps, often linked to this lack of regional specific data or data which is Scotland/England specific in nature. Without region specific data it is difficult to draw confident conclusions about the state or trend of certain topics in the Solway Firth. The lack of regionally specific and Solway-wide specific data should be considered as a data gap throughout.
The unprecedented situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of the UK including the Solway Firth, and there will be socio-economic changes going forward which need to be assessed in the future. The increase in UK coastal tourism and other socio-economic changes will continue and impacts on the local economy and environment must be considered and monitored. The ongoing changes, and long-term impacts of the pandemic remain unknown at present. Similarly, the UK leaving the EU will likely bring about changes in how the UK manages and monitors the marine environment. These changes are an outstanding data gap.
The socio-economic Productive chapter of the Solway Review has data gaps due to the manner in which data is collected and made available. As outlined in the main Productive page, it is important to note that there are a number of challenges when gathering and analysing data at the regional level.
These can be categorised as:
- Availability of data– there are numerous sources of rich economic, sectoral and wider data that can be utilised within the assessment. However, these data sources are all subject to discrepancies with regards to publication, in particular, the frequency of publication (monthly/quarterly/annually, and by time of year), geographic disaggregation, and data suppression. Where data allows, the format and reporting against the individual sectors is consistent throughout.
- Data Suppression – publicly available data that could potentially identify individuals or businesses cannot be disclosed due to commercial confidentiality – this is a challenge in rural areas, and where there are a limited number of large employers operating in the area. Therefore, at lower geographic and sectoral levels, there will often be data that is not disclosed. Please note that when analysing trend data, supressed data is included to calculate the overall change.
There are also challenges with measuring the economic activity generated by the sport, recreation and tourism sector as it encompasses a broad definition that cuts across many industry sectors. It is even more challenging to separate strictly marine tourism from terrestrial tourism. It can be difficult to capture the true contribution of this sector to the Solway as many recreational activities are free, but have associated benefits to the local economy such as to local businesses through food and drink etc. Close attention should be paid to ongoing changes to this sector especially in light of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on ‘staycation’ and local tourism around the UK.
What the Solway lacks in hard data can be partially made up for with the wealth of local knowledge of the Solway Firth. Locals around the Firth make a point of knowing about the features, species, and nature of the estuary and are very aware of changes in the environment. Many know stories of changes, and progressions over the course of their lives, and in some cases parents and grandparents’ lives are told through stories and oral history.
The following assessment of knowledge gaps as provided by Scotland’s Marine Assessment and additional Solway specific information or gaps identified. Note that in the knowledge gaps tables below all text is either directly from or heavily reliant on Moffat et al (2020) unless in orange.
Image; Dunskey Castle. © E. Baruah