Determining ecoregional reference conditions for nutrients, secchi depth, and chlorophyll a in Kansas lakes and reservoirs

TitleDetermining ecoregional reference conditions for nutrients, secchi depth, and chlorophyll a in Kansas lakes and reservoirs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsDodds, WK, Carney, E, Angelo, RT
JournalLake and Reservoir Management
Pagination151 -159
Accession NumberKNZ001032
Keywordsecoregion, eutrophication, nitrogen, nutrient criteria, Phosphorus

Baseline environmental conditions are a critical consideration in the development of scientifically defensible aquatic nutrient criteria. We applied three methods to ecoregionally stratified data to determine reference conditions in Kansas lakes and reservoirs with respect to total phosphorus, total nitrogen, Secchi depth, and planktonic chlorophyll a (chl a). First, minimally developed lake/watershed units were identified based on existing geographical databases and visual basin surveys. Lakes and reservoirs in these watersheds were considered minimally-to-least impacted “reference” waters. Second, median nutrient, Secchi depth, and chl a values were determined for the best one-third of lakes and reservoirs and applied as indicators of reference condition (trisection). Third, a regression-based extrapolation method was applied to estimate water quality conditions in the absence of anthropogenic influences. The first method suggested no ecoregional effect on the trophic status of minimally impacted reference water bodies, whereas the other two methods indicated some significant ecoregional differences. Lack of ecoregional effect in reference bodies could indicate that differences were driven by anthropogenic influences rather than natural regional characteristics. Reference conditions, as determined by these three methods, broadly agreed for all parameters and were generally at or less than literature values for the mesotrophic-eutrophic threshold for lakes and reservoirs worldwide. Reference values for total phosphorus were primarily less than levels commonly associated with cyanobacterial blooms. Overall, the data suggest that multiple methods can be used to determine reference condition, and that in Kansas lakes and reservoirs reference condition corresponds to mesotrophic state.