- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- 1009 to 1032
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Dataset to run a 37-year simulation (1979-2015) of the Lake Mendota lake ecosystem using the vertical 1D GLM-AED2 model. The focus of this modeling study is on determining the drivers of year-to-year variability in the spatial and temporal extent of hypolimnetic anoxia.more » « less
Lake water clarity, phytoplankton biomass, and hypolimnetic oxygen concentration are metrics of water quality that are highly degraded in eutrophic systems. Eutrophication is linked to legacy nutrients stored in catchment soils and in lake sediments. Long lags in water quality improvement under scenarios of nutrient load reduction to lakes indicate an apparent ecosystem memory tied to the interactions between water biogeochemistry and lake sediment nutrients. To investigate how nutrient legacies and ecosystem memory control lake water quality dynamics, we coupled nutrient cycling and lake metabolism in a model to recreate long‐term water quality of a eutrophic lake (Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, USA). We modeled long‐term recovery of water quality under scenarios of nutrient load reduction and found that the rates and patterns of water quality improvement depended on changes in phosphorus (P) and organic carbon storage in the water column and sediments. Through scenarios of water quality improvement, we showed that water quality variables have distinct phases of change determined by the turnover rates of storage pools—an initial and rapid water quality improvement due to water column flushing, followed by a much longer and slower improvement as sediment P pools were slowly reduced. Water clarity, phytoplankton biomass, and hypolimnetic dissolved oxygen differed in their time responses. Water clarity and algal biomass improved within years of nutrient reductions, but hypolimnetic oxygen took decades to improve. Even with reduced catchment loading, recovery of Lake Mendota to a mesotrophic state may require decades due to nutrient legacies and long ecosystem memory.
Green Lake is the deepest natural inland lake in Wisconsin, with a maximum depth of about 72 meters. In the early 1900s, the lake was believed to have very good water quality (low nutrient concentrations and good water clarity) with low dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations occurring in only the deepest part of the lake. Because of increased phosphorus (P) inputs from anthropogenic activities in its watershed, total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in the lake have increased; these changes have led to increased algal production and low DO concentrations not only in the deepest areas but also in the middle of the water column (metalimnion). The U.S. Geological Survey has routinely monitored the lake since 2004 and its tributaries since 1988. Results from this monitoring led the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to list the lake as impaired because of low DO concentrations in the metalimnion, and they identified elevated TP concentrations as the cause of impairment. As part of this study by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Green Lake Sanitary District, the lake and its tributaries were comprehensively sampled in 2017–18 to augment ongoing monitoring that would further describe the low DO concentrations in the lake (especially in the metalimnion). Empirical and process-driven water-quality models were then used to determine the causes of the low DO concentrations and the magnitudes of P-load reductions needed to improve the water quality of the lake enough to meet multiple water-quality goals, including the WDNR’s criteria for TP and DO. Data from previous studies showed that DO concentrations in the metalimnion decreased slightly as summer progressed in the early 1900s but, since the late 1970s, have typically dropped below 5 milligrams per liter (mg/L), which is the WDNR criterion for impairment. During 2014–18 (the baseline period for this study), the near-surface geometric mean TP concentration during June–September in the east side of the lake was 0.020 mg/L and in the west side was 0.016 mg/L (both were above the 0.015-mg/L WDNR criterion for the lake), and the metalimnetic DO minimum concentrations (MOMs) measured in August ranged from 1.0 to 4.7 mg/L. The degradation in water quality was assumed to have been caused by excessive P inputs to the lake; therefore, the TP inputs to the lake were estimated. The mean annual external P load during 2014–18 was estimated to be 8,980 kilograms per year (kg/yr), of which monitored and unmonitored tributary inputs contributed 84 percent, atmospheric inputs contributed 8 percent, waterfowl contributed 7 percent, and septic systems contributed 1 percent. During fall turnover, internal sediment recycling contributed an additional 7,040 kilograms that increased TP concentrations in shallow areas of the lake by about 0.020 mg/L. The elevated TP concentrations then persisted until the following spring. On an annual basis, however, there was a net deposition of P to the bottom sediments. Empirical models were used to describe how the near-surface water quality of Green Lake would be expected to respond to changes in external P loading. Predictions from the models showed a relatively linear response between P loading and TP and chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) concentrations in the lake, with the changes in TP and Chl-a concentrations being less on a percentage basis (50–60 percent for TP and 30–70 percent for Chl-a) than the changes in P loading. Mean summer water clarity, quantified by Secchi disk depths, had a greater response to decreases in P loading than to increases in P loading. Based on these relations, external P loading to the lake would need to be decreased from 8,980 kg/yr to about 5,460 kg/yr for the geometric mean June–September TP concentration in the east side of the lake, with higher TP concentrations than in the west side, to reach the WDNR criterion of 0.015 mg/L. This reduction of 3,520 kg/yr is equivalent to a 46-percent reduction in the potentially controllable external P sources (all external sources except for precipitation, atmospheric deposition, and waterfowl) from those measured during water years 2014–18. The total external P loading would need to decrease to 7,680 kg/yr (a 17-percent reduction in potentially controllable external P sources) for near-surface June–September TP concentrations in the west side of the lake to reach 0.015 mg/L. Total external P loading would need to decrease to 3,870–5,320 kg/yr for the lake to be classified as oligotrophic, with a near-surface June–September TP concentration of 0.012 mg/L. Results from the hydrodynamic water-quality model GLM–AED (General Lake Model coupled to the Aquatic Ecodynamics modeling library) indicated that MOMs are driven by external P loading and internal sediment recycling that lead to high TP concentrations during spring and early summer, which in turn lead to high phytoplankton production, high metabolism and respiration, and ultimately DO consumption in the upper, warmer areas of the metalimnion. GLM–AED results indicated that settling of organic material during summer might be slowed by the colder, denser, and more viscous water in the metalimnion and thus increase DO consumption. Based on empirical evidence from a comparison of MOMs with various meteorological, hydrologic, water quality, and in-lake physical factors, MOMs were lower during summers, when metalimnetic water temperatures were warmer, near-surface Chl-a and TP concentrations were higher, and Secchi depths were lower. GLM–AED results indicated that the external P load would need to be reduced to about 4,060 kg/yr, a 57-percent reduction from that measured in 2014–18, to eliminate the occurrence of MOMs less than 5 mg/L during more than 75 percent of the years (the target provided by the WDNR). Large reductions in external P loading are expected to have an immediate effect on the near-surface TP concentrations and metalimnetic DO concentrations in Green Lake; however, it may take several years for the full effects of the external-load reduction to be observed because internal sediment recycling is an important source of P for the following spring.more » « less
Absence of dissolved oxygen (anoxia) in the hypolimnion of lakes can eliminate habitat for sensitive species and may induce the release of sediment‐bound phosphorus. Lake anoxia generally results from decomposition of organic matter, which is exacerbated by high nutrient loads. Total phosphorus (TP) in lakes is regulated by static aspects of the lake’s watershed, but lake TP can be readily increased by human activities. In some low‐nutrient lakes, basin morphometry may induce naturally occurring anoxia. The occurrence of natural anoxia is especially important to consider in lake water quality assessments that compare observed conditions to expected reference conditions. To investigate the occurrence of natural vs. anthropogenically influenced anoxia, we constructed a logistic regression model to calculate the probability of low‐nutrient lakes (TP < 15 µg/L) developing aerial anoxic extent ≥10% by testing the predictive potential of variables related to basin morphometry, depths of lake thermal strata, epilimnetic TP, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Maximum lake depth and the proportion of lake area under the top of the metalimnion were the most important variables to predict the likelihood of hypolimnetic anoxia, which correctly predicted anoxic condition in 84% of lakes (Model 1). Adding TP as a third variable to Model 1 produced a significantly improved model (Model 2) but the prediction success rate was comparable (86%). We also present a model for lakes with limited bathymetric data, which predicts anoxia with 81% accuracy based on maximum lake depth and mean thermocline depth at peak stratification. DOC was relatively low (4.3 ± 1.5 mg/L [mean ± SD]) in the study lakes and its inclusion did not improve model performance. In Model 1, lakes with an anoxic extent ≥10% of lake area had significantly higher epilimnetic TP than lakes with oxic hypolimnia, regardless of prediction category or success. Our results indicate that including TP as a variable helps refine models based on morphometry alone, but lake morphometry and stratification dynamics are the most important factors in the development of anoxic extent in low‐nutrient temperate lakes. Our approach informs studies concerned with identifying key factors that influence regime shifts in a variety of ecosystems.
null (Ed.)Changes in mixing regimes and CO2 availability may promote harmful cyanobacterial blooms in polymictic lakes and ponds globally, but the underlying mechanisms still remain unclear. We integrated results from a natural experiment comprising an average-wet year (2011) and one with heat waves (2012), a long-term meteorological dataset (1960–2010), historical phosphorus concentrations and corresponding sedimentary pigment records, to determine, on different temporal scales, the mechanistic controls of cyanobacterial blooms in a eutrophic polymictic lake. Intense warming in 2012 was associated with: 1) increased stability of the water column with buoyancy frequencies exceeding 40 cph at the surface, 2) high phytoplankton biomass in spring (up to 125 mg WW L-1), 3) reduced downward transport of heat and 4) persistently depleted epilimnetic CO2 concentrations. CO2 depletion was effectively maintained by intense uptake by phytoplankton (influx up to 30 mmol m-2 d-1) in combination with reduced carbon inputs from the watershed during dry periods. Under eutrophic conditions these effects triggered massive bloom of buoyant cyanobacteria (up to 300 mg WW L-1). Complementary evidence from polynomial regression modelling using long-term datasets revealed that warming is the most important predictor of cyanobacterial abundance during the second half of the last century explaining 78% of the observed positive trend, whereas phosphorus concentration explained only 10% thereof. Together the results from the interannual comparison and the multi-decadal record indicate that hotter and drier climates increase water column stratification and decrease CO2 availability in eutrophic polymictic lakes. This combination catalyzes blooms of buoyant cyanobacteria.more » « less