Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 145–154 | Cite as

Phosphorus loading, transport and concentrations in a lake chain: a probabilistic model to compare management options

  • Stephen R. CarpenterEmail author
  • Richard C. Lathrop
Research Article


Phosphorus (P) loading, exports and concentrations of the four lakes of the Yahara chain (Wisconsin, USA) were compared under four load-reduction plans using a model calibrated with 29–33 years of annual data. P mitigation goals must balance reductions in P concentrations in the four lakes and the export from the lake chain to downstream waters. Lake Mendota, the uppermost lake, is most responsive to P load reductions, and benefits diminish downstream. Nonetheless, the greatest reductions in export from the lake chain to downstream waters derive from P load reductions to lakes lower in the chain. The effective grazer Daphnia pulicaria causes large improvements in water quality. Management to maintain populations of D. pulicaria has substantial benefits that augment those from reductions in P loading. Model projections show high variability in water quality and exports under all load-reduction plans. This variability is driven by inter-annual variation in runoff. Thus lake managers and the public should expect ongoing year-to-year variability in water quality, even though P load mitigation will improve water quality on average. Because of high variability from year to year, ongoing monitoring is essential to assess the effects of management of this chain of lakes.


Lakes Landscape limnology Phosphorus Water quality 



Our work was supported by the US National Science Foundation through the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research Program and the Water Science and Sustainability program, and by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for LimnologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Bureau of Science ServicesWisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesMadisonUSA

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