A macrophyte bioassessment approach linking taxon-specific tolerance and abundance in north temperate lakes

TitleA macrophyte bioassessment approach linking taxon-specific tolerance and abundance in north temperate lakes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMikulyuk, Alison, Barton Martha, Hauxwell Jennifer, Hein Catherine, Kujawa Ellen, Minahan Kristi, Nault Michelle E., Oele Daniel L., and Wagner Kelly I.
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Number of Pages172-180
Date Published9/1/
Reprint Number0301-4797
KeywordsAnthropogenic disturbance, Aquatic plants, Biological assessment, Ecological integrity, Ecological quality, Lake management

Bioassessment methods are critically needed to evaluate and monitor lake ecological condition. Aquatic macrophytes are good candidate indicators, but few lake bioassessment methods developed in North America use them. The few macrophyte bioassessment methods that do exist suffer from problems related to subjectivity and discernibility along disturbance gradients. We developed and tested a bioassessment approach for 462 north temperate lakes. The approach links macrophyte abundance to lake ecological condition via estimates of taxon-specific abundance-weighted tolerance to anthropogenic disturbance. Using variables related to eutrophication, urban development and agriculture, we calculated abundance-weighted tolerance ranges for 59 macrophyte taxa and clustered them according to their tolerance to anthropogenic disturbance. We also created a composite index of anthropogenic disturbance using 20 variables related to population density, land cover and water chemistry. We used a statistical approach to set ecological condition thresholds based on the observed abundance of sensitive, moderately tolerant and tolerant taxa in each lake. The resulting lake condition categories were usually stable across multiple survey events and largely agreed with condition rankings assigned using expert judgment. We suggest using this macrophyte bioassessment method for federal water quality reports, restoration and management on north temperate lakes.