Over 60 years of citizen science observations detect trends in Midwestern lakes

Apr 30, 2014

Over 60 years of data collected across 8 states by citizen scientists may demonstrate their potential to contribute to monitoring long-term lake water trends over a large area, according to results published April 30, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Noah Lottig from University of Wisconsin and colleagues.

Lakes provide valuable resources for people, animals, and fish, among others. Long-term monitoring of 'lake health' across a large region can be difficult and expensive, but using a simple, standardized tool, the Secchi disk—a circular disk that measures water transparency in oceans and lakes—anyone can measure lake —a major indicator of lake health. Midwestern lake goers have been collecting information about lake clarity using the Secchi disk for over 60 years, and in this study, scientists compiled this publicly available data from across eight states in the Upper Midwest, USA, to assess long-term water clarity trends and their relationships to spatial location, size, and period of monitoring. The database consisted of >140,000 individual, citizen-collected Secchi observations from 3,251 lakes observed during the summer.

Overall, water clarity has been increasing slightly, 1%, across all monitored lakes. Lakes situated further south showed more of a long-term decline in water clarity, whereas lakes further north showed an overall trend toward increasing water clarity. These patterns may correlate with latitude, but the authors suggest that they were likely influenced by additional factors, such as land use or climate. Although these factors are more difficult to measure, researchers hope that this water clarity data demonstrate how citizen science can provide critical monitoring data needed to address environmental questions at for large spaces and over long time scales. Fostering collaborations among citizens, researchers, and the government may help us obtain important data sets that indicate trends in macroscale environmental patterns.

Noah Lottig added, "Because citizens collect so much data, their efforts enabled us to examine water clarity trends using data intensive approaches at spatial and temporal scales that would not have been possible with data collected from traditional monitoring groups"

Explore further: Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

More information: Lottig NR, Wagner T, Norton Henry E, Spence Cheruvelil K, Webster KE, et al. (2014) Long-Term Citizen-Collected Data Reveal Geographical Patterns and Temporal Trends in Lake Water Clarity. PLoS ONE 9(4): e95769. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095769

Related Stories

Lake Tahoe water clarity improved in 2011

Mar 01, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Lake Tahoe clarity improved in 2011, but overall has remained nearly stable since 2000, according to UC Davis scientists who study the lake.

Lake Tahoe clarity improves, outlook not so clear

Aug 08, 2013

While clarity improved at Lake Tahoe for a second straight year in 2012, long-term trends show that climate change is impacting the Lake Tahoe Basin with drier years, less precipitation, higher lake temperatures ...

Climate change, algae lessen Lake Tahoe's clarity

Aug 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Lake Tahoe clarity dropped in 2010, but the rate of decline in clarity over the past decade remains slower compared with previous decades, according to UC Davis scientists who have monitored the lake for ...

Lake Tahoe water clarity the best in 10 years

Feb 28, 2013

(Phys.org)—Lake Tahoe's clarity improved in 2012 for the second year in a row, and its waters were the clearest in 10 years, according to University of California, Davis, scientists who study the lake. ...

Recommended for you

Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

13 hours ago

The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered a widespread die-off of forests around the region. A Carnegie-led team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling ...

Good luck and the Chinese reverse global forest loss

13 hours ago

Analysis of 20 years of satellite data has revealed the total amount of vegetation globally has increased by almost 4 billion tonnes of carbon since 2003. This is despite ongoing large-scale deforestation ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.