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Monitoring Methods

The following text has been excerpted and modified with permission from copyrighted material. Material in this section should not be reproduced in any manner without permission of the North American Lake Management Society (www.NALMS.orgj. trophic state theory and methods. Material should be cited as: The reader is encouraged to read the original materialfor more details on

Carlson, R.E. and J. Simpson. 1996. A Coordinator's Guide to Volunteer Lake Monitoring Methods. North American Lake Management Society. 96 pp.


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A Trophic State Index Calculating the TSI Averaging TSI Values Relating Trophic State Indices to the State ofthe Waterbody Adding Other Indices Using the Indices Beyond Classification Recommendations Literature Cited

A Trophic State Index
A frequently used biomass-related trophic state indices is that of Carlson (1977). It is relatively simple to use, requires a minimum of data, and is generally easy to understand, both in theory and use. It is numerical, but the traditional nutrient-related trophic state categories fit into the scheme. It seems to be ideal for use in volunteer programs. We define trophic state as the total weight of living biological material (biomass) in a waterbody at a specific location and time. Time and location-specific measurements can be aggregated to produce waterbody-Ievel estimations of trophic state. Trophic state is understood to be the biological response to forcing factors such as nutrient additions (Naumann, 1919, 1929), but the effect of nutrients can be modified by factors such as season, grazing, mixing depth, etc. In accordance with the definition oftrophic state given above, the trophic state index (TSI) of Carlson (1977) uses algal biomass as the basis for trophic state classification. Three variables, chlorophyll pigments, Secchi depth, and total phosphorus, independently estimate algal biomass. Unlike Naumann's typological classification of trophic state (Naumann, 1929), the index reflects a continuum of "states." There are no lake "types." The trophic continuum is divided into units based on a base-2 logarithmic transformation of Secchi depth, each 1O-unit division of the index representing a halving or doubling of Secchi depth. Because total phosphorus often correlates with transparency, a doubling of the total phosphorus often corresponds to a halving of Secchi depth. Chlorophyll pigments double every 7 units rather than every 10 units (Carlson 1980). The range of the index is from approximately zero to 100, although the index theoretically has no lower or upper bounds. The index has the advantage over the use of the raw variables in that it is easier to memorize units of 10 rather than the decimal fractions of raw phosphorus or chlorophyll values. An early version of the index was based on a scale of one to ten, but it became tempting to add 1,2, or more numbers after the decimal. For this reason, the scale was multiplied by ten to discourage any illusory precision obtained by using more than whole numbers. The logarithmic transformation of the data normalizes the skewed data distribution, allowing the use of parametric statistics (mean, standard deviation, parametric comparison tests). This facilitates not only comparison and data reduction, but communication as well, because the user does not need to resort to graphs with logarithmic axes. The three index variables are interrelated by linear regression models, and should produce the same index value for a given combination of variable values. Any of the three variables can therefore theoretically be used to classify a waterbody. This is particularly useful in citizen lake monitoring programs, where Secchi depth is often the only variable that can be inexpensively measured. For the purpose of classification, priority is given to chlorophyll, because this variable is the most accurate of the three at predicting algal biomass. According to Carlson (1977), total phosphorus may be better than chlorophyll at predicting summer trophic state from winter samples, and transparency should only be used if there are no better methods available.


the TSI

The index is relatively simple to calculate and to use. or it might reflect the concept that trophic state is defi ned by a number of variables. of chlorophyll. oX}'gen Water maybe suitable for an unfiltered water supply. There is no logic in combining a good predictor with two that are not (Carlson 1983). Although transparency and phosphorus may co-vary with trophic state. Walle)9 Mesotrophy: hypolimnetic Water moderately probability of anoxia during summer clear. and total phosphorus. We have used the classic terms of oligo trophy. The index is predicated on the idea that it is predicting algal biomass. but illustrates how the index was constructed.81 In(CHL) + 30. may Salmonid fisheries dominate Oligotrophy: hypolim nion throughout the )9ar in the Hypolimnia O~Shaliowerlakes RFlnR become ancxc I Iron.41 In(SO) TSI(CHL) = 9. Secchi depth should be used as a surrogate. TSI (SD) = 1O[6. The simplified equations are below: TSI(SO) = 60 -14. but they can be simplified for everyday use. so it is quite possible for an oligotrophic lake to have no hypolimnetic oxygen. Below is a table of attributes that could be expected in a north temperate lake at various TSI values. TSI(CHL). If the Secchi depth were 2 meters. and odor problem s worsen. but. Carlson (1983) emphasized that the averaging of chlorophyll with the predicted chlorophyll based on Secchi depth is equivalent to assuming that temperature is better estimated by averaging the reading from a thermometer with the number of cricket chirps per minute. GEJc:Jc:J 1 [~~]O. In 211n 2 = 1 6 -1 = 5 10x5 = 50 The indices for the chlorophyll and total phosphorus are derived in a similar manner. Neither transparency nor phosphorus are independent estimators oftrophic state. The original Secchi depth equation in Carlson (1977).95-2. Perhaps this is just a natural tendency for humans to seek the central tendency. Kratzer and Brezonik 1981). the TSI of a 1 meter Secchi depth is 60. Using transparency or phosphorus as an estimator of chlorophyll is very different than assuming equal and independent status of the variables. reproduced below looks forbidding.42In(TP) + 4. such as hypolimnetic oxygen or fisheries may be expected to vary with latitude and altitude and the table may not place these changes in the proper TSI category.6 101 6-12 c:J@][TI~1 (ugIL) (m) (ug/L) Attributes Water Supply Fisheries & Recreation I Clear water. increasing . In 1 =0 6. and eutrophy in their original context ofthe amount of algae in the water. Whatever the reason.15 TSI Values TSI(TP) Averaging There has been a tendency to average the three variables rather than to prioritize their use (Osgood 1982. the chlorophyll TSI is: The above forms of the TSI equations may illustrate how the indices were derived. the empirical relationship between chlorophyll or total phosphorus and Secchi depth is given instead. TSI(SD). mesotrophy. Chlorophyll is a better predictor than either of the other two indices.lnlnS~] The basic Secchi disk index was constructed from doublings and halvings of Secchi disk transparency. Raw water turbidity requires I Salmonid fisheries in deep lakes only Hypolim netic anoxia results in loss of salmonids.6 = 14. manganese. averagi ng makes no sense at all. Three equations are used: Secchi disk. Relating Trophic State to the State of the Waterbody Any trophic state index gains value when it can be correlated with specific events within a waterbody. the logarithm of which is zero. chlorophyll pigments. the changes in transparency are caused by changes in algal biomass and total phosphorus mayor may not be strongly related to algal biomass. TSI(TP). not hypolimnetic oxygen concentration. A list of possible changes that might be expected in a north temperate lake as the amount of algae changes along the trophic state gradient. For example. Some characteristics.0 = 6 10x 6 = 60 Therefore. not covariate. instead of a Secchi depth value in the numerator. taste. The base index value is a Secchi disk of 1 meter.

Water quality. substantially reduced. 8EJGB LP=ro=d=uc=tilll=·ly=)=. For the trophic state terms to have meaning at all. ~================:~============: ·25BHypereutrOPhY:(lightlimited I I . et at. In northern lakes. geographical location. on the other hand. or power boating. I . and low transparencymay discourageswimming I I . algal scums.5-1 48-96 56-155 0. Episodes of severe :~~:~r:~: ~~:~o:~~~n. what is meant by good water quality would be different for a person wanting to catch lake trout than a person wanting only bass. few macrophytes summer fish kills possible An unfortunate misconception concerning trophic state is that the term is synonymous with the concept of water quality. Smeltzer and Heiskary (1990) queried volunteers as to whether their lakes were beautiful or if enjoyment was slightly impaired.5 96-192 >80 >155 <0. salmonids might dominate in clear lakes having oxygenated hypolimnia. 1987). they should not be used interchangeably. they must be applicable in any situation in any location. to be replaced by percids. Infisheries management. boaters wi IIwant to minimize weeds. and virtually all attitudes that the user brings to lake evaluation other than that of a user. However. In Vermont and in the northeastern portion of Minnesota. 2-1 24-48 1I~====:II:~=====:~===========HI!. the trophic spectrum is being referred to. found that lakes in New Zealand ceased to be acceptable for swimming at Secchi depths less than one meter. In a study of lay attitudes about water quality. They found that the volunteer responses varied geographically. General background means the attitude ofthe user that is related to his or her upbringing.I:======:II:====~ BEJGB BEJQU 20-56 0.:~~~~a~ taste and odor possible. the effect of nitrogen limitation can be estimated by having a companion index to the Total Phosphorus TSI. Since nitrogen limitation still classifies a lake along Naumann's nutrient axis. For each use. sailing. An oligotrophic lake might have good water quality for swimming but be considered poor water quality for bass fishing. and finally rough fish such as carp or bullheads. What changes is the perception of what is good or bad water quality. The lesson here is that what is judged to be good or poor water quality is affected by regional attitudes. Such an index was constructed by Kratzer and Brezonik (1981) using data from the National Eutrophication Survey on Florida lakes. swimmers will want to see their feet. macrophyteproblems possible · I Warm-waterfisheries only. is a term used to describe the condition of a water body in relation to human needs or values. Confusion can ensue when the term trophic state is used to infer quality.. An oligotrophic or a eutrophic lake has attributes of production that remain constant no matter what the use of the water or where the lake is located. Multiple use situations can cause numerous conflicts because of differing perceptions of water quality by different users. volunteers were more sensitive to changes in trophic state. In this case. If a fisheries manager wished to manage all lakes based on fish production.25 192-384 8EJGB 73-20 . or nearly impossible. and thus the perception of quality at any given trophic state. Quality is not an absolute. but ignore weeds completely. In the agricultural region of southwest Minnesota. the terms "good" or "poor" water quality only have meaning relative to the use of the water and the attitude of the user. that a manager were to establish fishing goals based on trophic state. Vant and Davies-Colley (1988). passive recreation (relaxation/observation/ picnics/camping). for example. Nuisancemacrophytes. vary considerably. Generally fish yield increases as the production ofthe lake increases. Adding Other Indices Nitrogen Other indices have been constructed to be used with the basic three. but there may be changes in the dominant fish species as a lake eutrophies (Oglesby. =De=n=s=e=al=ga=e=a=n=d===l::=========: . Roughfish dominate. This index is calculated using the formula: . for example. Suppose. lakes that were considered to have minor problems would have been considered impaired in the other regions. but the needs of the users. acrophytes . Other users. When production increases to the point where the hypolimnion becomes anoxic. II I and boating. such as drinking water utilities. then salmonids may disappear. the meaning of quality water heavily depends on the goals and expectations of the fishery and the fishermen. Bass may dominate. Attitude about water quality is also affected by the general background of the user. then centrarchids. then the greener the lake the better. . The trophic scale is a division ofthat variable(s) used in the definition of trophic state and is not subject to change because of the attitude or biases of the observer. but Secchi depth apparently did not affect fishing. Although the concepts are related. may want the clearest water possible. Algalscums. the relationship between fish production and fish community structure and trophic state do not!!!!ltra~t~io~n=======:lImaypredominate Eutrophy:Anoxichypolimnia. Fishermen may want the opti mal water quality for their particular species of game fish. Trophic state is an absolute scale that describes the biological condition of a waterbody.

If. a systematic deviation might also occur. The total macrophyte biomass in the lake is estimated by the equation TSMB = SA xC x B (7. I ITSI(Chl) Relationship Between TSI Variables II Conditions I I = TSI(TP) = TSI(SD) = TSI(SD) > TSI(CHL) = TSI(CHL) > TSI(TP) = TSI(SD) IIAIgae dam inate light attenuation. however. Canfield et al. In these cases. Chlorophyll and Secchi depth indices might rise above the phosphorus index. and have internally consistent units. dominate ITSI(Chl) > TSI(SD) ITSI(TP) ITSI(SD) I Non-algal particulates IIPhosPhorus or color dominate light attenuation (TNfTP >33:1) factor such as nitrogen limitation. If everyTSI value for each variable is similar and tracks each other.) The index of Kratzer and Brezonik were designed to be used in nitrogen-limiting conditions. then a deviation of only the phosphorus index might indicate nitrogen limitation. Some possible interpretations of deviations of the index values are given in the table below (updated from Carlson 1983). This is a serious drawback that needs to be addressed. it is possible that different index values will be obtained. underestimate the trophic state of macrophyte-dominated lakes. If a volunteer incorrectly measures Secchi depth. while deviations of both nitrogen and phosphorus indices might indicate situations where nitrogen or phosphorus are not limiting. for example. then you know that the lake is probably phosphorus limited (TNITP = 33. The solution could be very simple. may cause the chlorophyll and Secchi depth indices to fall below the . There seems to be no reason why he same approach could not be used to measure total plant biomass or chlorophyll. affecting the chlorophyll relationship with the other variables. It is therefore blind to macrophyte biomass and may. For example. trophic state could include both macrophytes and algae. such as Aphanizomenon flakes. Carlson 1992) and that most of the attenuation of light is by algae. and B = average biomass collected with a sampler. Canfield et al. The total phosphorus content ofthe lake was obtained by adding the amount of phosphorus in the macrophytes to the amount estimated to be in the water column.11) where TSMB = total submersed macrophyte biomass.43In(TN) (7. Macrophytes The TSI in its present form is based solely on algal biomass. if an extractant other than acetone is used for chlorophyll analysis. but it also means that a correspondence of the nitrogen index with the chlorophyll index cannot be used to indicate nitrogen limitation. I limits algal biomass ITSI(TP) >TSI(CHL) I Algae dominate zooplankton light attenuation butsome grazing ortoxics limitalgal biomass. However. the chlorophyll and transparency indices may be close together. but in reality. Using the Indices Beyond Classification A major strength of TSI is that the interrelationships between variables can be used to identify certain conditions in the lake or reservoir that are related to the factors that limit algal biomass or affect the measured variables. These deviations of the total phosphorus or the Secchi depth index from the chlorophyll index can be used to identify errors in collection or analysis or real deviations from the "standard" expected values (Carlson 1981). (1983) estimated the total phosphorus in plant biomass based on the phosphorus in each species and the relative abundance of each species. while the phosphorus TSI of Carlson deviates at low nitrogen phosphorus ratios. therefore.TSI(TN) = 54. the indices do not correspond throughout the season.45 + 14. After methodological errors can be ruled out. in some situations the variation is not random and factors interfering with the empirical relationship can be identified. remaining systematic seasonal deviations may be caused by interfering factors or non-measured limiting factors. TNfTP . When more than one ofthe three variables are measured.7) (Nitrogen values must be in units of mg/L. C = percent cover of submersed aquatic macrophytes. If it were used. nitrogen and phosphorus indices were plotted at the same time. Intense zooplankton grazing. In some lakes. The simplest way to use the index for comparison of variables is to plot the seasonal trends of each of the individual indices. SA = lake surface area. (1983) proposed a method to measure the total phosphorus content of lakes. is relatively insensitive to the nitrogen: phosphorus ratio. In other lakes or during the season. suggesting that the algae are becoming increasingly phosphorus limited.33:1 I Large particulates. a greater amount of chlorophyll might be extracted from each cell. This might suggest that the algae are nitrogen-limited or at least limited by some other factor than phosphorus. something very basic must be affecting the relationships between the variables. The problem may be as simple as the data were calculated incorrectly or that a measurement was done in a manner that produced different values. some variability between the index values is to be expected. This suggests that a nitrogen index value might be a more universally applicable nutrient index than a phosphorus index. Because the relationships between the variables were originally derived from regression relationships and the correlations were not perfect. but both will fall below the phosphorus curve.

TSI (TP) is plotted on the vertical axis./' ~o ~------------~--------------~ TSI (CHL)<TSI (SO) TSI (CHL»TSI (SO) -=i ~ !!! Arepresentation explanations of deviations of the Trophic Stale Index equations. Points lying on the diagonal to the left of the origin indicate situations where phosphorus and transparency are correlated. .. Carlson (1992) reported that this zero line is related to total nitrogen to total phosphorus (TNffP) ratios greater than 33:1. but chlorophyll is not. This use of the index is still being developed but holds considerable promise in the interpretation of data. v -=i r r--------------+~------------~ ~ Dissolved Color Clay Particles iii /<~~ //~~~'dI Zooplankton Grazing ~ !!l . only that not all the measured phosphorus is being utilized by the algae. A Multivariate Comparison A different way of looking at deviations is reported in Carlson (1992). IfTSI (CHL) . These deviations may occur if large particulates. therefore slight deviations below the zero line would not truly indicate nitrogen limitation. In turbid lakes./ ~ -'X -I . and therefore lakes with heavy clayturbiditywill have the phosphorus correlated with the clay turbidity. and transparency is less affected by the particulates. Points lying to the right of the Y-axis indicate situations where the transparency is greater than expected from the chlorophyll index. i./ // . Points on or near this line would be found in turbid situations where phosphorus is bound to clay particles and therefore turbidity and phosphorus are related. allowing simultaneous viewing of the deviations of all three indices. the greater the probability of something other than phosphorus limits algal growth. This form of graph collapses the deviations of the Secchi depth TSI onto the graph of the other deviations..TSI(TP) and TSI(CHL) .e. then points below the X-axis would be associated situations where chlorophyll is under-predicted by total phosphorus..~~f:t~ . Clay particles contain phosphorus.. dominate. As points go above the zero axis. A combined phosphorus and nitrogen TSI deviation could also be used for this axis to eliminate the effects of nitrogen as well as phosphorus limitation. are simultaneously plotted on a single graph. The spatial location of the data for a single lake or for a number of lakes can therefore be used to infer possible relationships between the three variables. it is possible to identify some of these systematic deviations. Increasing Phosphorus Limitation Increasing Phosphorus Surplus t I of possible Smaller Particles Predominate Larger Particles Predominate /// ~ /' . The possibilities are illustrated below.. it would suggest increasing possibility of phosphorus limitation. This relationship of the variables does not necessarily mean that the algae is limited by light. such as blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria). Deviations to the right may also occur if zooplankton grazing removes smaller particles and leaves only large forms.TSI(SD). Phosphorus is usually thought to become limiting at a TNffP ratio of 10:1. but chlorophyll is not. it is common to see a close relationship between the total phosphorus TSI and the Secchi depth TSI. TSI(CHL) . A better interpretation would be that the greater the negative deviation. situations where phosphorus may not be limiting chlorophyll.phosphorus index as the zooplankton remove algal cells from the water or Secchi depth may fall below chlorophyll if the grazers selectively eli mi nate the smaller cells. while the chlorophyll index falls 10 or 20 units below the others.. If both of the deviations. Points to the left of the Y-axis would be related to situations where transparency is dominated by non-algal factors such as color or turbidity or where very small particles predominate. while the algae are neither able to utilize all the phosphorus nor contribute significantly to the light attenuation..

lidskr. Haller. Expanding the trophic state concept to identify non-nutrient limited lakes and reservoirs. Carlson. Not everyone considers the ideal lake to be clear. 1981. Carlson. Bull. R 1983. If data for chlorophyll and phosphorus are available. 7. Analysis and applications of lake user survey data. use chlorophyll as the primary index for trophic state classification. Be careful about using quality terms when speaking of trophic state. 218-221. 2): 166-170. and SA Heiskary. which can cause all sorts of interpretational problems. D. More complications in the chlorophyll-Secchi disk relationship. 4. Maceina.S. Using differences among Carlson's trophic state index values in regional water quality assessment. 1990. The definition is simple and far more functional than any other definition.E. Osgood. Trophic state is not the same thing as water quality. but trophic state certainly is one aspect of water quality. 18: 67-74.. J. Literature Cited Canfield. you can explain that the deposition of erosional materials will cause the lake to become shallower. North American Lake Management Society. You can use it to discuss all the possible factors. RE. Fomey. Hydrobiol. W. The trophic state index of Carlson (1977) is recommended as the simplest method of calculating and explaining trophic state concepts. Fish. RE. Use the simplest definition of trophic state: the concept does not have to be so complex that it is cannot be simply explained or easily measured. A Carlson-type trophic state index for nitrogen in Florida lakes. Jr. simply define it as a movement ofthe lake's trophic state in the direction of more plant biomass.V. Use the index as a teaching tool. 1929. Nagra synpunkter angaende limnoplanktons okologi med sarskild hansyn till fytoplankton. Water Resources Bulletin. Res. Limnology and Oceanography. 13: 129-163. Using trophic state indices to examine the dynamics of eutrophication. Carlson. Even your own perception of quality is affected by your background and education. Aquat Sci. thus affecting the total amount of biomass. Res. C. EPA 440/5-81-010. U. 5. Be sensitive to the fact that not all users will want the same type of water quality that you do. simple to measure. Rather than linking the process to nutrients. Wat. 1977. Water. 1981. Shireman. 21: 423-. J. Kratzer. p. A Coordinator's Guide to Volunteer Lake Monitoring Methods. A trophic state index for lakes. For example. J. Carlson. Sci. and J. Use the deviations ofthe Secchi depth and total phosphorus indices from the chlorophyll index to infer additional information about the functioning ofthe lake.L. 1919. M. Chicago. 1996. Always be sensitive to the background and needs of the users. 19:307-309. In: Proceedings ofthe Intemational Symposium on Inland Waters and Lake Restoration.RJones. Naumann. Environmental Protection Agency. Smeltzer. Oglesby. RE. E. Can. Int.H. Fish. Monitoring and Lake Impact Assessment. Leach. Carlson. Brezonik. Remove the mystery from the term eutrophication. Several recommendations can be made with regard to the use oftrophic state classifications. 22:361-369. 6. 96 pp. by Richard A. J. that could make a lake more eutrophic.. 5971 [In] Proceedings ofa National Conference on Enhancing the States' Lake Management Programs.Recom mendations Trophic state determination is an important aspect of lake surveys. 1980.R and P.J. Trophic state classification of lakes with aquatic macrophytes. 1983. and J. 1987. 17: 713-715. 25:378-382. Limnology and Oceanography. RE. E. KA Langeland. pp. 1. how it affects hypolimnetic oxygen and fish species and its possible effect on food chains and recreational potential. Aquat. 2. It also can be predicted from nutrient models and can be used to predict other biological characteristics.T. RE. Naumann. and therefore enhance macrophyte growth. Carlson. Can. 3. Simpson. Discussion on "Using differences among Carlson's trophic state index values in regional water quality assessment". not just nutrients. Potential Stizostedion yield as a function of chlorophyll concentration with special reference to Lake Erie. Bot. E. The scope and chief problems of regional limnology. Osgood. and J. Discuss the ramifications of change in plant biomass. RT. 1983. 44(Suppl. The recommended definition is that of plant biomass: it is historically correct. Revue ges. 1992. Sv. RE. Bull. and simple to understand and explain. 40: 1713-1718. Lake and Reservoir .

Verein. and R. W.Managemem.N. Verh. Sancaktar .lnternat. 1988. Davies-Colley. 23: 611-615.J. Copyright © 2009 Secchi Dipin Sije Design By: Errol A. Water appearance and recreational use of 10 lakes of the North Island (New Zealand). Vant. Limnol.