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BQRAP explains the Bay of Quinte balancing act

bqrapScientists use a system in which lakes are classified according to their “trophic status” or “trophic state”. The trophic state of a lake is defined by its biological productivity, that is, the amount of living material supported within them, primarily in the form of algae. The amount of nutrients (phosphorus) entering the lake influences its productivity.

The least productive lakes are called ‘oligotrophic’. These are typically cool and clear, and have relatively low nutrient concentrations. Lake Superior has low nutrient levels, is crystal clear, and very cold. The most productive lakes are called ‘eutrophic’ and are characterized by high nutrient concentrations which result in algal growth, cloudy water, and low dissolved oxygen levels. Lake Erie is classified as a eutrophic lake. Those lakes that are somewhere between oligotrophic and eutrophic are termed ‘mesotrophic’ and there are low and high variations of each state.

In the 1980s, the Bay of Quinte was classified as hyper- eutrophic, due to excess amounts of algae. Today, the Bay is classified as meso-eutrophic, due to reduced algae and improved water quality. Both natural and human factors can influence a lake’s trophic level. Natural influences include the water’s natural temperature and the lake’s size, including shape, depth, and volume. Human influences include the amount of nutrients carried into lakes, such as agricultural runoff, residential fertilizers, stormwater runoff, and sewage, as they will all increase algae production.

Often, the desired trophic level differs between people. Eutrophic waterbodies are highly productive and support a diverse amount of fish and wildlife. Fishermen may want a lake to be eutrophic so that it will support a large and diverse population of fish. Residents, on the other hand, may want the same lake to be oligotrophic, as this is more pleasant for swimming and boating due to clearer water and less plant growth.

To find out more about the different trophic levels and phosphorus – http://www.epa.gov/glindicators/water/trophicb.html

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BQRAPNovember-2014-R

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