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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

Nutrient Tool for Lakes

EPA researchers in Narragansett, Rhode Island, recently updated an important online resource that contains information on more than 28,000 lakes in the northeastern United States. Scientists developed this Web tool to guide management decisions, particularly those that affect the flow of nutrients into the nation’s lakes.

Lakes provide valuable benefits—called ecosystem services—to residents and visitors and are increasingly important for maintaining recreational opportunities and amenities. However, northeastern population growth threatens regional lakes by, for instance, increasing levels of nutrients entering lake waters.

EPA’s updated Web tool helps users understand the linkages between changing nutrient cycles and the delivery of important ecosystem services to residents and visitors of the Northeast.

The online lakes tool includes a Lakes Ecosystem Services Database, which combines information from a variety of sources such as EPA’s National Lakes Assessment and the U.S. Geological Survey’s SPARROW Model for water quality, among other datasets. The tool also includes a Geographic Information System (GIS) that provides geospatial visualization, search, and analysis options.

Users can go online and query, sort, and download data on lake location, depth, volume, land cover, and surrounding human population. They can also study the flow of nitrogen and phosphorus into certain lakes, as well as explore associations between those nutrients and the benefits that people obtain from lakes. The tool is intended to aid lake managers in the northeast and nationwide to foster a better understanding of the links between management decisions, nutrients, and lake ecosystem services.

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