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Natural Resources Science


Addressing anthropogenic impacts on aquatic ecosystems is a focus of lake management. Controlling phosphorus and nitrogen can mitigate these impacts, but determining management effectiveness requires long-term datasets. Recent analysis of the LAke multi-scaled GeOSpatial and temporal database for the Northeast (LAGOS-NE) United States found stable water quality in the northeastern and midwestern United States; however, sub-regional trends may be obscured. We used the University of Rhode Island’s Watershed Watch Volunteer Monitoring Program (URIWW) dataset to determine if there were sub-regional (i.e., 3000 km2) water quality trends. URIWW has collected water quality data on Rhode Island lakes and reservoirs for over 25 yr. The LAGOS-NE and URIWW datasets allowed for comparison of water quality trends at regional and sub-regional scales, respectively. We assessed regional (LAGOS-NE) and sub-regional (URIWW) trends with yearly median anomalies calculated on a per-station basis. Sub-regionally, temperature and chlorophyll a increased from 1993 to 2016. Total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and the nitrogen:phosphorus ratio (N:P) were stable. At the regional scale, the LAGOS-NE dataset showed similar trends to prior studies of the LAGOS-NE with chlorophyll a, total nitrogen, and N:P all stable over time. Total phosphorus did show a very slight increase. In short, algal biomass, as measured by chlorophyll a in Rhode Island lakes and reservoirs increased, despite stability in total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and the nitrogen to phosphorus ratio. Additionally, we demonstrated both the value of long-term monitoring programs, like URIWW, for identifying trends in environmental condition, and the utility of site-specific anomalies for analyzing for long-term water quality trends.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.