Estimating Summer Nutrient Concentrations in Northeastern Lakes from SPARROW Load Predictions and Modeled Lake Depth and Volume

Abstract

Global nutrient cycles have been altered by the use of fossil fuels and fertilizers resulting in increases in nutrient loads to aquatic systems. In the United States, excess nutrients have been repeatedly reported as the primary cause of lake water quality impairments. Setting nutrient criteria that are protective of a lakes ecological condition is one common solution; however, the data required to do this are not always easily available. A useful solution for this is to combine available field data (i.e., The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) National Lake Assessment (NLA)) with average annual nutrient load models (i.e., USGS SPARROW model) to estimate summer concentrations across a large number of lakes. In this paper we use this combined approach and compare the observed total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TN) concentrations in Northeastern lakes from the 2007 National Lake Assessment to those predicted by the Northeast SPARROW model. We successfully adjusted the SPARROW predictions to the NLA observations with the use of Vollenweider equations, simple input-output models that predict nutrient concentrations in lakes based on nutrient loads and hydraulic residence time. This allows us to better predict summer concentrations of TN and TP in Northeastern lakes and ponds. On average we improved our predicted concentrations of TN and TP with Vollenweider models by 18.7% for nitrogen and 19.0% for phosphorus. These improved predictions are being used in other studies to model ecosystem services (e.g., aesthetics) and dis-services (e.g. cyanobacterial blooms) for ~18,000 lakes in the Northeastern United States.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081457

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Milstead2013EstimatingSN, title={Estimating Summer Nutrient Concentrations in Northeastern Lakes from SPARROW Load Predictions and Modeled Lake Depth and Volume}, author={W. Bryan Milstead and Jeffrey W. Hollister and Richard B. Moore and Henry Allen Walker}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2013} }