Assessing ecological quality of shallow lakes: Does knowledge of transparency suffice?

E.T.H.M. Peeters, R.J.M. Franken, E. Jeppesen, B. Moss, E. Bécares, L-A. Hansson, S. Romo, T. Kairesalo, E.M. Gross, E. Van Donk, T. Nõges, K. Irvine, R. Kornijów, M. Scheffer

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    The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires that all aquatic ecosystems in their member states should reach ‘good’ ecological quality by 2015. To assess ecological quality, the WFD requires the definition of reference conditions using biological, physical and chemical indicators and the assignment of each water body to one of five quality classes using these indicators. Elaborate assessment schemes using large sets of variables are now being developed. Here we address the question whether all this is really needed and what the simplest assessment approach would be for the case of shallow lakes. We explore the relationships between the quality class assigned to a lake by experts in shallow lake ecology and a rich set of biological, physical, and chemical data. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were carried out based on data from 86 shallow lakes throughout Europe that were sampled in 2000 and/or 2001. Ecological quality of shallow lakes judged by experts was strongly correlated to physical and chemical variables associated with light regime and nutrients and much less to biological variables. Our regression model showed that ecological quality of this set of shallow lakes judged by experts could be predicted quite well from water transparency expressed as Secchi depth and that other variables did not contribute to it significantly. According to the WFD, lakes should at least have a ‘good’ ecological quality. Quality judged by experts and predicted quality were similar for 78% of the lakes with respect to meeting this standard. As a cautionary note we stress that Secchi depth alone wi
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)89-96
    JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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