Lakes and reservoirs provide water for human needs and habitat for aquatic birds. Managers of such waters may ask whether nutrients added by waterfowl degrade water quality. For lakes and reservoirs where primary productivity is limited by phosphorus (P), we developed a procedure that integrates annual P loads from waterfowl and other external sources, applies a nutrient load-response model, and determines whether waterfowl that used the lake or reservoir degraded water quality. Annual P loading by waterfowl can be derived from a figure in this report, using the days per year that each kind spent on any lake or reservoir. In our example, over 6500 Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and 4200 ducks (mostly mallards, Anas platyrhynchos) added 4462 kg of carbon (C), 280 kg of nitrogen (N), and 88 kg of P y-1 to Wintergreen Lake in southwestern Michigan, mostly during their migration. These amounts were 69% of all C, 27% of all N, and 70% of all P that entered the lake from external sources. Loads from all external sources totaled 840 mg P m-2 y-1. Application of a nutrient load-response model to this concentration, the hydraulic load (0.25 m y-1), and the water residence time (9.7 y) of Wintergreen Lake yielded an average annual concentration of total P in the lake of 818 mg m-3 that classified the lake as hypertrophic. This trophic classification agreed with independent measures of primary productivity, chlorophyll-a, total P, total N, and Secchi disk transparency made in Wintergreen Lake. Our procedure showed that waterfowl caused low water quality in Wintergreen Lake.
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Nutrient additions by waterfowl to lakes and reservoirs: predicting their effects on productivity and water quality