Biomanipulation in shallow lakes in The Netherlands: an evaluation of 18 case studies

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Abstract

Eighteen shallow lakes in The Netherlands were subjected to biomanipulation, i.e. drastic reduction of the fish stock, for the purpose of lake restoration. The morphology and the nutrient level of the lakes differed, as did the measures applied. In some lakes biomanipulation was accompanied by reduction of the phosphorus loading. In all but two lakes, the Secchi disk transparency increased after the fish removal. Eight lakes (no phosphorus loading reduction, except for one lake) showed a strong and quick response to the measures: the bottom of the lake became visible (‘lake bottom view’) and there was a massive development of submerged macrophytes. In eight other lakes the water transparency increased, but lake bottom view was not obtained. In the biomanipulated lakes the decrease in total phosphorus and chlorophyll a and the increase in Secchi disk transparency were significantly stronger than the general trend occurring in Dutch lakes where no measures had been taken. The improvement in the Secchi depth and chlorophyll a was also stronger than in lakes where only the phosphorus load was reduced. The critical factor for obtaining clear water was the extent of the fish reduction in winter. Significant effects were observed only after >75% fish reduction. Success seems to require substantial fish manipulation. In such strongly biomanipulated lakes, wind resuspension of the sediment never prevented the water from becoming clear. No conclusion can be drawn with respect to the possible negative impact of cyanobacteria or Neomysis on grazing by Daphnia and consequently on water clarity. In all lakes where there had been a high density of cyanobacteria or years with a high density of Neomysis other factors such as insufficient fishery may explain why lake bottom view was not obtained. In all lakes with additional phosphorus loading reduction the fish stock has been reduced less drastically (15–60%). In these lakes the effects on transparency were less pronounced than in the lakes with > 75% fish removal. Daphnia grazing seems responsible for spring clearing in all clear lakes but one. In three lakes the reduction of benthivorous fish also increased the transparency. The factors that determine water clarity in summer are less obvious. In most clear lakes a low algal biomass coincided with a macrophyte coverage of more than 25% of the lake surface area. However, it was not clear what mechanism caused the low algal biomass in summer, although inorganic nitrogen concentrations were regularly found to be very low. Daphnia grazing in open water seemed to be of little importance for suppressing the algal biomass in summer. Although in most lakes the total phosphorus concentration decreased after the biomanipulation, the dissolved phosphorus concentration remained too high to cause phosphorus limitation of the algal growth. In four out of six clear lakes for which there are long-term data the transparency decreased again after 4 years. In one lake with lower nutrient levels the Secchi disk transparency increased over the years. However, the number of lakes with low nutrient levels is too small for conclusions to be drawn regarding the impact of nutrient levels on the stability of the clear water state.