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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Research Students  /  Lucia Lencioni

Lucia Lencioni


Lucia Lencioni
Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street


Primary: Dr Helen Bennion (UCL)
Secondary: Dr Carl Sayer (UCL), Nadia Solovieva (UCL)

Scottish Natural Heritage

Current Research

UK freshwaters are a valuable natural resource, offering a suite of ecosystem services such as maintaining biodiversity and provision of drinking water (UK NEA, 2011). For Scotland particularly, freshwater biodiversity and good water quality are important parts of a valuable natural heritage and generate vital tourism revenue for the country (UK NEA, 2011). Scottish freshwaters contribute approximately 90% to the overall UK total by volume and 70% by area (UK NEA, 2011). On a global scale, freshwater ecosystems are under threat from many stressors, including eutrophication, climate change and invasive non-native species (INNS). Eutrophication is considered to be a global threat to the ecological status of freshwater ecosystems and their ability to deliver key ecosystem services such as domestic and industrial water supply and recreational use (Carson et al., 2015; Haygarth, 2005). This is expected to remain a global pressure for the next century (Elliott, 2012). Climate change is an increasingly prevalent threat to fresh waters (Moss, 2010). The central England temperature series has shown an increase in air temperature of 1⁰C since 1980 (Moss, 2014). Since the 1960s, rainfall patterns in Scotland have varied with changes in climate and this has been associated with changes in river flows. Flows are increasing during winter months and showing greater seasonal variation (UK NEA, 2011). This could present increases in nutrient delivery from catchments to lochs, in addition to the more direct potential effects of climate change, such as alteration of water densities due to warmer waters (Moss, 2014). In the face of these challenges, legal obligations exist for governments to adhere to national and European legislation: the surface waters of Scotland are required to reach good ecological status by the European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD) (SEPA, 2007); meanwhile under national and devolved legislation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are required to remain in favourable status, as notified under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Compliance with this legislation requires accurate and reliable assessment of the health of aquatic systems.

Palaeolimnology combines the study of inland waters, limnology, with the study of past ecological communities, palaeoecology, to reconstruct past conditions in inland waters using lake sediments (Smol, 2008). In lakes it has already been widely used to define pre-industrial conditions in lakes and detect changes in ecology since that time (Davidson & Jeppesen, 2013). Palaeolimnology can provide the context to help judge whether deviation has occurred from high ecological status, as defined by the attendant legislation (e.g. WFD) and also help to set recovery targets (Bennion and Battarbee, 2011; Sayer et al., 2012). As recovery from perturbed states may follow trajectories that are not easy to predict, it is important to measure effectiveness of improvement measures, including phosphorus treatment at sewage processing works and reductions in agricultural diffuse pollution through agri-environment schemes (Lotter, 2001; Smol, 2008). The SNIFFER (2001) and subsequent Bennion, Fluin & Simpson (2004) palaeoecological study) of 26 Scottish lochs have built the foundations for assessing ecological change in Scottish lochs in relation to acidification and eutrophication. This PhD will attempt to extend the timeline by analysing new sediment cores from the same sites. By sampling at high resolution, this analysis will seek to answer questions about the effectiveness and suitability of measures taken to reduce nutrient loadings, ascertain whether previously oligotrophic lochs have remained so and whether climate change has affected the communities of these oligotrophic lochs.

Research Aims

i) To assess if there has been any recovery in the lochs where nutrient loading has been reduced,

ii) To identify whether the sites deemed to be minimally impacted by Bennion et al. (2004) remain so,

iii) To evaluate the causes of change for those lochs exhibiting signs of enrichment or trajectories of change not seen by Bennion et al. (2004) and determine shifts in wider ecosystem structure and function

iv) To detect any recent climate-driven changes in the ecology of deep, oligotrophic lochs.


Academic Qualifications


2014-Present: PhD, University College London
PhD Title: Recent responses of Scottish freshwater lochs to changes in nutrient loading and climate change.

2009-2013: BSc (Hons), Environmental Management with Sandwich Placement, University of Hertfordshire
Grade: First

BSc (Hons) Dissertation: Benthic alpine stream communities in the Saas Valley (Saastal), Switzerland.


Work Experience

2013-2014: Environment Planning Officer, Environment Agency

2013: Laboratory Technician (maternity cover), University of Hertfordshire

2009-2013: Student Ecorep, University of Hertfordshire.

2004–2008: Account Manager and Project Manager, SFD


Grants and awards

2015: Mead Travel Fund

2015: Postgraduate Research Student Fund

2015: International Palaeolimnology Symposium Student Travel Award

2011: Nuffield Undergraduate Research Bursary


2014-Present: Teaching Assistant, Department of Geography, UCL

GEOG1003: Data Acquisition and Interpretation

GEOG3042: Restoration and Management of Freshwater Ecosystems

GEOG3063: Overseas Fieldclass Greece

GEOGG072: Aquatic Monitoring


The findings of my project can provide valuable information to support activities under the European Union Water Framework Directive, notably implementation of the next round of River Basin Management Plans in terms of assessing degree of recovery of lakes from nutrient enrichment and hence effectiveness of Programmes of Measures. My data will also be used to contribute to Site Condition Monitoring of standing water features (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), including assessment of long term trends, degree and rate of ecological change and extent of improvement to features in unfavourable condition where management has occurred.

Conferences, Workshops and outreach:

2016 – Oral presentation at the Scottish Freshwater Group Spring Meeting, Loch Lomond, Scotland.
Title: ‘Algal communities of Loch Maree – indicators of a pristine loch?’

2016 – Poster at 14th Sub-fossil Cladocera Workshop, Levico Terme, Italy.
Title: ‘Sub-fossil Cladocera at Loch Leven, Scotland as potential indicators of recovery from eutrophication in a multi-stressor environment’

2015 – Oral presentation at International Palaeolimnology Symposium, Lanzhou, China.
Title: ‘Recent responses of Scottish freshwater lochs to changes in nutrient loading and climate change’

2015: Participation in ITV1’s natural history programme, ‘Britain’s Biggest Adventures’ at Loch Morar, Scotland.

2014: Attended Scottish Freshwater Group Autumn Meeting, Stirling, Scotland.

2014: Attended British Diatom Meeting, Hay-on-Wye.