Lakes provide significant ecosystem services that are compromised by human degradation. Watershed and in-lake restoration are used to improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of lakes, but their success is rarely evaluated. Our objectives were to compare water quality and biological conditions following in-lake, watershed, or a combination of both restoration activities in 20 lakes throughout Iowa, USA compared to reference systems. Lake-specific responses to restoration were variable, making it challenging to detect systematic effects in water quality parameters. Secchi depth generally improved following restoration, particularly in natural in-lake restorations and following sediment removal, fishery renovation, and with the number of restoration practices implemented, but improvements were not sustained. Restoration also tended to reduce nutrient and plankton concentrations and relative abundance of some benthic fishes. Due to the prolonged degradation of eutrophic lakes, it may be unrealistic to expect immediate and long-lasting water quality improvements. In-lake restoration in natural lakes may be the most likely to have detectable effects, but our results also highlight the need for improved restoration documentation and additional research to identify factors associated with restoration success. Our results are useful for guiding lake restoration practices and educating lake users and stakeholders on expected restoration outcomes.
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We thank Iowa DNR staff throughout the state for conducting the lake restorations and for sharing data vital to the success of this project. Specifically, we thank D. Cashatt, J. Kopaska, and R. Krogman with the Iowa DNR for useful discussions and assistance with data compilation and interpretation. Map of lakes throughout Iowa was provided by B. Kelly. Funding for the Ambient Lake Monitoring Program (lake water quality data used for this study) was provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Funding for restoration projects included funding from Iowa’s Lake Restoration Program (Iowa Code Sect. 456A. 24), the US EPA Sect. 319 Program, local partner and friends groups, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. This analysis was funded by the Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department at Iowa State University.
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Guest editors: Tom Jilbert, Raoul-Marie Couture, Brian J. Huser & Kalevi Salonen / Restoration of eutrophic lakes: current practices and future challenges
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Weber, M.J., Wilkinson, G.M., Balmer, M.B. et al. Restoration of eutrophic lakes in Iowa, USA. Hydrobiologia 847, 4469–4486 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-020-04310-1
- Alternative stable states
- Lake restoration
- Water quality