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Aquatic ecosystem metabolism as a tool in environmental management

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Abstract Recent advances in high‐frequency environmental sensing and statistical approaches have greatly expanded the breadth of knowledge regarding aquatic ecosystem metabolism—the measurement and interpretation of gross primary productivity (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER). Aquatic scientists are poised to take advantage of widely available datasets and freely‐available modeling tools to apply functional information gained through ecosystem metabolism to help inform environmental management. Historically, several logistical and conceptual factors have limited the widespread application of metabolism in management settings. Benefitting from new instrumental and modeling tools, it is now relatively straightforward to extend routine monitoring of dissolved oxygen (DO) to dynamic measures of aquatic ecosystem function (GPP and ER) and key physical processes such as gas exchange with the atmosphere (G). We review the current approaches for using DO data in environmental management with a focus on the United States, but briefly describe management frameworks in Europe and Canada. We highlight new applications of diel DO data and metabolism in regulatory settings and explore how they can be applied to managing and monitoring ecosystems. We then review existing data types and provide a short guide for implementing field measurements and modeling of ecosystem metabolic processes using currently available tools. Finally, we discuss research needed to overcome current conceptual limitations of applying metabolism in management settings. Despite challenges associated with modeling metabolism in rivers and lakes, rapid developments in this field have moved us closer to utilizing real‐time estimates of GPP, ER, and G to improve the assessment and management of environmental change. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Frequency of the number of U.S. states per type of dissolved oxygen criteria: Steady‐state minimum; steady‐state time‐variable that includes 1‐, 7‐, and 30‐day mean; minimum or minimum mean; and percent saturation. Continuous criteria include diel fluctuations and metabolism
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Range of dissolved oxygen criteria for each state across the United States. States are organized from least restrictive to most restrictive. Criteria included in displayed range are either steady‐state minima and/or time‐variable criteria (1‐, 7‐, or 30‐day mean)
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(a) Histograms of the number of sites per the number of measurements for data from the Water Quality Portal (top panel) and the combined sites from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON; Water quality (DP1.20288.001). https://data.neonscience.org (accessed October 3, 2019)), the StreamPULSE database (downloaded October 2019), and the dissolved oxygen time series used in the metabolism time series data published by Appling, Read, et al. (2018) (bottom panel). (b) Map of site locations in U.S. states from the histograms in panel a including Water Quality Portal (WQP) locations shown as small blue circles for rivers and small red circles for lakes, NEON river locations shown as yellow squares, StreamPULSE locations shown as green triangles, and rivers included in the Appling, Read, et al. (2018) publication shown as orange circles
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Summary of information gained by and applicability to management of discrete and continuous dissolved oxygen measurements and metabolism estimates. Data for figures from the Mississippi River at Clinton, Iowa (USGS gage: 05420500) generated by Appling, Read, et al. (2018) (https://doi.org/10.5066/F70864KX)
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