Environmental Management

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 396–407 | Cite as

Drivers and Management Implications of Long-Term Cisco Oxythermal Habitat Decline in Lake Mendota, WI

  • Madeline R. MageeEmail author
  • Peter B. McIntyre
  • Paul C. Hanson
  • Chin H. Wu


Cisco (Coregonus artedi) are an important indicator species for cold-water lake habitats in the Great Lakes region, and many populations have been extirpated at their southern range limit over the last century. Understanding the roles of climate and water quality in these extirpations should inform protection of cold-water fishes. Using the water temperature at the depth where dissolved oxygen falls to 3 mg L−1 (TDO3) as a metric, we investigated the roles of climate and water quality as drivers of habitat availability for cisco in Lake Mendota, WI, USA from 1976 to 2013. We find that summer (Jun−Aug) air temperatures, spring (Mar−May) phosphorus load, and spring inflow influence summer TDO3. Warm air temperatures lead to the greatest increases in TDO3, whereas reduced phosphorus loads can reduce TDO3, thus alleviating oxythermal stress. Under air temperatures expected under the A1B climate change scenario, a 25% reduction in phosphorus load would stabilize TDO3 at current levels, while a 75% reduction in phosphorus loading would be required to expand oxythermal habitat. Costs of these reductions are estimated to range from US$16.9 million (−25%) to US$155–167 million (−75%) over a 20-year period but may be feasible by expanding upon current watershed phosphorus reduction initiatives if sustained funding were available. Identifying targeted reductions will become increasingly important throughout the region as warmer temperatures and longer stratification reduces cool- and cold-water fish habitat in many Midwestern lakes under the expected future climate.


Climate change Fisheries management Phosphorus reductions Cisco Lake Mendota 



We thank Dale Robertson for assistance with creating the long-term meteorological and inflow datasets; Richard Lathrop and John Magnuson for helpful background on cisco in Lake Mendota; and Jake Walsh for assistance in estimating costs of phosphorus load reductions. We also thank Katherine McMahon, Paul Block, Jordan Read, and Andrew Rypel for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Financial support was provided by the NSF-LTER program (#DEB-1440297, NTL LTER), University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute USGS 10(B) Research grant, the UW Office of Sustainability SIRE Award Program, and a Department of Interior Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Madeline R. Magee.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2018_1134_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (287 kb)
Supplementary Information
267_2018_1134_MOESM2_ESM.docx (331 kb)
Supplementary Information


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Center for LimnologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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