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

April 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: Lake Tahoe's long-term clarity trending toward stability

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

March 1, 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

August 8, 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 and projected ...

Climate change, algae lessen Lake Tahoe's clarity

August 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

February 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

Hot spot at Hawaii? Not so fast

August 18, 2017

Through analysis of volcanic tracks, Rice University geophysicists have concluded that hot spots like those that formed the Hawaiian Islands aren't moving as fast as recently thought.

Supervolcanoes: A key to America's electric future?

August 16, 2017

Most of the lithium used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power modern electronics comes from Australia and Chile. But Stanford scientists say there are large deposits in sources right here in America: supervolcanoes.

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up

August 16, 2017

Flow of the Greenland Ice Sheet is likely to speed up in the future, despite a recent slowdown, because its outlet glaciers slide over wet sediment, not hard rock, new research based on seismic surveys has confirmed. This ...

Climate change will cut crop yields: study

August 15, 2017

Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture.

0 comments

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.