Clarifying the trophic state concept to advance limnology, management, and interdisciplinary collaboration

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Michael Frederick Meyer , Benjamin M Kraemer, Carolina C Barbosa, Davi GF Cunha, Walter K Dodds, Stephanie E Hampton, César Ordóñez, Rachel M Pilla, Amina I Pollard, Joshua A Culpepper, Alexander K Fremier, Tyler V King, Robert Ladwig, Dina M Leech, Shin-ichiro S Matsuzaki, Isabella A Oleksy, Simon Topp, R Iestyn Woolway, Ludmila S Brighenti, Kate C Fickas, Brian P Lanouette, Julie C Padowski, Jianning Ren , Xiao Yang


Trophic state (TS) characterizes a waterbody’s biological productivity and depends on its morphometry, physics, chemistry, biology, climate, and history. However, multiple TS operational definitions have emerged to meet use-specific classification needs. These differing operational definitions can create inconsistent understanding, can lead to miscommunication, and can result in siloed management strategies for TS. For example, some regulatory agencies use TS to signify ecological integrity as opposed to biological productivity, where TS classification may trigger intervention efforts. These inconsistencies may be compounded when interdisciplinary projects employ varied TS frameworks. To emphasize the consequences of using multiple TS classification schemes, we present three scenarios for which an improved understanding of the TS concept could advance limnological research, management efforts, and interdisciplinary collaboration. As the field of limnology continues to expand, we highlight the importance of re-evaluating even the most fundamental limnological concepts, such as TS, to ensure congruence with evolving, cutting-edge science.



Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Limnology, metabolism, productivity, lake, River


Published: 2023-10-03 00:38

Last Updated: 2023-10-03 07:38


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.