Aquatic Plant Research > Scientific Data on Aquatic Plant Communities
Aquatic Plant Research
Scientific Data on Aquatic Plant Communities
Aquatic plants play a vital role in the health of aquatic ecosystems. They provide food and shelter for fish and other wildlife; they help with excess nutrients and they prevent algae blooms. In order to make good decisions when managing Wisconsin's aquatic plant communities, we need to collect scientific information about aquatic plant communities using a standardized and comparable sampling method. This allows lake managers and researchers to make comparisons among lakes across space and time. Standardized methods help us better understand the outcomes of management actions. DNR Science Services helps answer questions about how to observe and study aquatic plant communities.
As sampling needs change and different questions arise for how to best assess aquatic plant communities, DNR Science Services will continue to update and evolve our sampling methods to best serve the Wisconsin community.
DNR Science Services researchers developed a rapid assessment protocol to broadly characterize the aquatic plants in a given lake. This method is quick to implement, but does not collect the species-specific information necessary to make sound management decisions. However, the rapid assessments may be of use in ecological condition assessments and some monitoring purposes and could provide a cost-effective solution to big-picture ecological questions.
Ten years ago, there was little agreement on how to collect data on aquatic plant communities. The use of different survey methods meant that results were impossible to compare from one region to the next. This prevented consistent reporting on lake ecology statewide and made it difficult to assess the outcomes of plant management. DNR Science Services developed and tested a sampling protocol to use across the whole state to describe the distribution and abundance of aquatic plants. The protocol uses a point-intercept sampling design, with sites located on a geo-referenced sampling grid laid out on the surface of lakes. The method returns comparable estimates of aquatic plant abundance and useful in making comparisons among lakes and assessing the efficacy of management actions. This is the current standardized sampling technique used in Wisconsin.