Maximum growing depth of macrophytes in Loch Leven, Scotland, United Kingdom, in relation to historical changes in estimated phosphorus loading
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- May, L. & Carvalho, L. Hydrobiologia (2010) 646: 123. doi:10.1007/s10750-010-0176-0
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Eutrophication is common in shallow lakes in lowland areas. In their natural state, most shallow lakes would have clear water and a thriving aquatic plant community. However, eutrophication often causes turbid water, high algal productivity, and low species diversity and abundance of submerged macrophytes. A key indicator of the ecological state of lake ecosystems is the maximum growing depth (MGD) of aquatic plants. However, few studies have yet quantified the relationship between changes in external phosphorus (P) input to a lake and associated variation in MGD. This study examines the relationship between these variables in Loch Leven, a shallow, eutrophic loch in Scotland, UK. A baseline MGD value from 1905 and a series of more recent MGD values collected between 1972 and 2006 are compared with estimated P loads over a period of eutrophication and recovery. The results suggest a close relationship between changes in MGD of macrophytes and changes in the external P load to the loch. Variation in MGD reflected the ‘light history’ that submerged macrophytes had been exposed to over the 5-year period prior to sampling, rather than responding to short term, within year, variations in water clarity. This suggests that changes in macrophyte MGD may be a good indicator of overall, long term, changes in water quality that occur during the eutrophication and restoration of shallow lakes.