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Water-quality models to assess algal community dynamics, water quality, and fish habitat suitability for two agricultural land-use dominated lakes in Minnesota, 2014

July 20, 2017

Fish habitat can degrade in many lakes due to summer blue-green algal blooms. Predictive models are needed to better manage and mitigate loss of fish habitat due to these changes. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, developed predictive water-quality models for two agricultural land-use dominated lakes in Minnesota—Madison Lake and Pearl Lake, which are part of Minnesota’s sentinel lakes monitoring program—to assess algal community dynamics, water quality, and fish habitat suitability of these two lakes under recent (2014) meteorological conditions. The interaction of basin processes to these two lakes, through the delivery of nutrient loads, were simulated using CE-QUAL-W2, a carbon-based, laterally averaged, two-dimensional water-quality model that predicts distribution of temperature and oxygen from interactions between nutrient cycling, primary production, and trophic dynamics.

The CE-QUAL-W2 models successfully predicted water temperature and dissolved oxygen on the basis of the two metrics of mean absolute error and root mean square error. For Madison Lake, the mean absolute error and root mean square error were 0.53 and 0.68 degree Celsius, respectively, for the vertical temperature profile comparisons; for Pearl Lake, the mean absolute error and root mean square error were 0.71 and 0.95 degree Celsius, respectively, for the vertical temperature profile comparisons. Temperature and dissolved oxygen were key metrics for calibration targets. These calibrated lake models also simulated algal community dynamics and water quality. The model simulations presented potential explanations for persistently large total phosphorus concentrations in Madison Lake, key differences in nutrient concentrations between these lakes, and summer blue-green algal bloom persistence.

Fish habitat suitability simulations for cool-water and warm-water fish indicated that, in general, both lakes contained a large proportion of good-growth habitat and a sustained period of optimal growth habitat in the summer, without any periods of lethal oxythermal habitat. For Madison and Pearl Lakes, examples of important cool-water fish, particularly game fish, include northern pike (Esox lucius), walleye (Sander vitreus), and black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus); examples of important warm-water fish include bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu). Sensitivity analyses were completed to understand lake response effects through the use of controlled departures on certain calibrated model parameters and input nutrient loads. These sensitivity analyses also operated as land-use change scenarios because alterations in agricultural practices, for example, could potentially increase or decrease nutrient loads.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Water-quality models to assess algal community dynamics, water quality, and fish habitat suitability for two agricultural land-use dominated lakes in Minnesota, 2014
DOI 10.3133/sir20175056
Authors Erik A. Smith, Richard L. Kiesling, Jeffrey R. Ziegeweid
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5056
Index ID sir20175056
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Minnesota Water Science Center