, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 715–725 | Cite as

Quantifying Relationships Among Phosphorus, Agriculture, and Lake Depth at an Inter-Regional Scale

  • Zofia E. Taranu
  • Irene Gregory-Eaves


To date, studies examining the impact of agriculture on freshwater systems have been spatially confined (that is, single drainage basin or regional level). Across regions, there are considerable differences in a number of factors, including geology, catchment morphometry, and hydrology that affect water quality. Given this heterogeneity, it is unknown whether agricultural activities have a pervasive impact on lake trophic state across large spatial scales. To address this issue, we tested whether the proportion of agricultural land in a catchment (% Agr) could explain a significant portion of the variation in lake water quality at a broad inter-regional scale. As shallow, productive systems have been shown to be particularly susceptible to eutrophication, we further investigated how lake mean depth modulates the relationship between % Agr and lake total phosphorus (TP) concentration. We applied both traditional meta-analytic techniques and more sophisticated linear mixed-effects models to a dataset of 358 temperate lakes that spanned an extensive spatial gradient (5°E to 73°W) to address these issues. With meta-analytical techniques we detected an across-study correlation between TP and % Agr of 0.53 (one-tailed P-value = 0.021). The across-study correlation coefficient between TP and mean depth was substantially lower (r = −0.38; P = 0.057). With linear mixed-effects modeling, we detected among-study variability, which arises from differences in pre-impact (background) lake trophic state and in the relationship between lake mean depth and lake TP. To our knowledge, this is the first quantitative synthesis that defines the influence of agriculture on lake water quality at such a broad spatial scale. Syntheses such as these are required to define the global relationship between agricultural land-use and water quality.


agriculture non-point source water quality phosphorus eutrophication morphometry meta-analysis mixed-effects model 



Funding for this research came from the Lakeland Industry and Community Association of Alberta (LICA) and McGill University. We appreciate the comments from Elena Bennett, Bronwyn Keatley, Daniel Selbie, Jesse Vermaire, and three anonymous reviewers on an earlier draft of this article. We also thank Brian Leung, Marco Rodriguez, and Russell Steele for advice on statistics. We are also grateful to the following authors for their enthusiasm and sharing of their data when need be; Burns CW, Chen G, Downing JA, Ekholm P, Galbraith LM, Müller B, Paterson AM, Prairie YT, and Vander Zanden JM.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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