Long-term citizen-collected data reveal geographical patterns and temporal trends in lake water clarity

Noah R. Lottig, Tyler Wagner, Emily Norton Henry, Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, Katherine E. Webster, John A. Downing, Craig A. Stow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We compiled a lake-water clarity database using publically available, citizen volunteer observations made between 1938 and 2012 across eight states in the Upper Midwest, USA. Our objectives were to determine (1) whether temporal trends in lake-water clarity existed across this large geographic area and (2) whether trends were related to the lake-specific characteristics of latitude, lake size, or time period the lake was monitored. Our database consisted of >140,000 individual Secchi observations from 3,251 lakes that we summarized per lake-year, resulting in 21,020 summer averages. Using Bayesian hierarchical modeling, we found approximately a 1% per year increase in water clarity (quantified as Secchi depth) for the entire population of lakes. On an individual lake basis, 7% of lakes showed increased water clarity and 4% showed decreased clarity. Trend direction and strength were related to latitude and median sample date. Lakes in the southern part of our study-region had lower average annual summer water clarity, more negative long-term trends, and greater interannual variability in water clarity compared to northern lakes. Increasing trends were strongest for lakes with median sample dates earlier in the period of record (1938-2012). Our ability to identify specific mechanisms for these trends is currently hampered by the lack of a large, multi-thematic database of variables that drive water clarity (e.g., climate, land use/cover). Our results demonstrate, however, that citizen science can provide the critical monitoring data needed to address environmental questions at large spatial and long temporal scales. Collaborations among citizens, research scientists, and government agencies may be important for developing the data sources and analytical tools necessary to move toward an understanding of the factors influencing macro-scale patterns such as those shown here for lake water clarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0095769
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014

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Lakes
water quality
lakes
Water
Databases
Government Agencies
government agencies
Information Storage and Retrieval
summer
Climate
Land use
volunteers
Macros
Volunteers
land use

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

Cite this

Lottig, N. R., Wagner, T., Henry, E. N., Cheruvelil, K. S., Webster, K. E., Downing, J. A., & Stow, C. A. (2014). Long-term citizen-collected data reveal geographical patterns and temporal trends in lake water clarity. PloS one, 9(4), [e0095769]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095769
Lottig, Noah R. ; Wagner, Tyler ; Henry, Emily Norton ; Cheruvelil, Kendra Spence ; Webster, Katherine E. ; Downing, John A. ; Stow, Craig A. / Long-term citizen-collected data reveal geographical patterns and temporal trends in lake water clarity. In: PloS one. 2014 ; Vol. 9, No. 4.
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abstract = "We compiled a lake-water clarity database using publically available, citizen volunteer observations made between 1938 and 2012 across eight states in the Upper Midwest, USA. Our objectives were to determine (1) whether temporal trends in lake-water clarity existed across this large geographic area and (2) whether trends were related to the lake-specific characteristics of latitude, lake size, or time period the lake was monitored. Our database consisted of >140,000 individual Secchi observations from 3,251 lakes that we summarized per lake-year, resulting in 21,020 summer averages. Using Bayesian hierarchical modeling, we found approximately a 1{\%} per year increase in water clarity (quantified as Secchi depth) for the entire population of lakes. On an individual lake basis, 7{\%} of lakes showed increased water clarity and 4{\%} showed decreased clarity. Trend direction and strength were related to latitude and median sample date. Lakes in the southern part of our study-region had lower average annual summer water clarity, more negative long-term trends, and greater interannual variability in water clarity compared to northern lakes. Increasing trends were strongest for lakes with median sample dates earlier in the period of record (1938-2012). Our ability to identify specific mechanisms for these trends is currently hampered by the lack of a large, multi-thematic database of variables that drive water clarity (e.g., climate, land use/cover). Our results demonstrate, however, that citizen science can provide the critical monitoring data needed to address environmental questions at large spatial and long temporal scales. Collaborations among citizens, research scientists, and government agencies may be important for developing the data sources and analytical tools necessary to move toward an understanding of the factors influencing macro-scale patterns such as those shown here for lake water clarity.",
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Lottig, NR, Wagner, T, Henry, EN, Cheruvelil, KS, Webster, KE, Downing, JA & Stow, CA 2014, 'Long-term citizen-collected data reveal geographical patterns and temporal trends in lake water clarity', PloS one, vol. 9, no. 4, e0095769. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095769

Long-term citizen-collected data reveal geographical patterns and temporal trends in lake water clarity. / Lottig, Noah R.; Wagner, Tyler; Henry, Emily Norton; Cheruvelil, Kendra Spence; Webster, Katherine E.; Downing, John A.; Stow, Craig A.

In: PloS one, Vol. 9, No. 4, e0095769, 01.04.2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Lottig NR, Wagner T, Henry EN, Cheruvelil KS, Webster KE, Downing JA et al. Long-term citizen-collected data reveal geographical patterns and temporal trends in lake water clarity. PloS one. 2014 Apr 1;9(4). e0095769. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095769