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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Drainage ditching at the catchment scale affects water quality and macrophyte occurrence in Swedish lakes

Ecke, Frauke


1. We have limited knowledge of the effects of land use in general and of drainage ditching in particular on macrophyte communities in lakes. I quantified catchment land use, including drainage ditching, as well as water quality and the number of macrophyte species in 17 Swedish lakes in summer 2005. 

2. Land use within 1km of the studied lakes was analysed in a geographic information system. The following variables were included: areas of forests, mires, agricultural land and urbanization, length of drainage ditches (classified according to the use of the land they drained), and shortest distance from lake to an urban area. To extract and analyse general trends in the data sets, redundancy analysis was used. 
3. Water quality was explained mainly by three land-use related variables: the lengths of agricultural, forest and mire ditches. The length of agricultural ditches was positively correlated with lake water conductivity, total dissolved solids, Ca, N and total organic carbon (TOC). The lengths of forest and mire ditches were positively correlated with lake water characteristics, especially TOC. 
4. The number of species representing different macrophyte life forms was explained by three environmental variables: conductivity, and lengths of forest and agricultural ditches. The numbers of isoetids, nymphaeids, elodeids and total obligate hydrophytes were negatively correlated with length of forest ditches. In contrast, the number of lemnids and helophytes was positively correlated with conductivity and length of agricultural ditches. Furthermore, the number of isoetids was exponentially related (negatively) to lengths of agricultural and forest ditches, indicating a threshold response to drainage ditch length. 
5. The results suggest that effects on water quality and macrophyte communities result from drainage ditching in the lake catchments rather than from land use itself. Given the total area of drainage-ditched land worldwide (millions of ha in Scandinavia alone), drainage ditching should be considered when evaluating environmental impacts on lake water quality and macrophyte occurrence and when determining reference conditions for catchment land use.


hydrophytes; isoetids; land use; lemnids; submerged vegetation

Published in

Freshwater Biology
2009, Volume: 54, number: 1, pages: 119-126

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    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation

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