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Watershed land use effects on lake water quality in Denmark

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Mitigating nutrient losses from anthropogenic nonpoint sources is today of particular importance for improving the water quality of numerous freshwater lakes worldwide. Several empirical relationships between land use and in-lake water quality variables have been developed, but they are often weak, which can in part be attributed to lack of detailed information about land use activities or point sources. We examined a comprehensive data set comprising land use data, point-source information, and in-lake water quality for 414 Danish lakes. By excluding point-source-influenced lakes (n = 210), the strength in relationship (R2) between in-lake total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations and the proportion of agricultural land use in the watershed increased markedly, from 10–12% to 39–42% for deep lakes and from 10–12% to 21–23% for shallow lakes, with the highest increase for TN. Relationships between TP and agricultural land use were even stronger for lakes with rivers in their watershed (55%) compared to lakes without (28%), indicating that rivers mediate a stronger linkage between landscape activity and lake water quality by providing a “delivery” mechanism for excess nutrients in the watershed. When examining the effect of different near-freshwater land zones in contrast to the entire watershed, relationships generally improved with size of zone (25, 50, 100, 200, and 400 m from the edge of lake and streams) but were by far strongest using the entire watershed. The proportion of agricultural land use in the entire watershed was best in explaining lake water quality, both relative to estimated nutrient surplus at agricultural field level and near-lake land use, which somewhat contrasts typical strategies of management policies that mainly target agricultural nutrient applications and implementation of near-water buffer zones. This study suggests that transport mechanisms within the whole catchment are important for the nutrient export to lakes. Hence, the whole watershed should be considered when managing nutrient loadings to lakes, and future policies should ideally target measures that reduce the proportion of cultivated land in the watershed to successfully improve lake water quality.

Read More: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/11-1831.1
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Applications
Pages (from-to)1187-1200
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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