Great Lakes Diatom and Water Quality Indicators

EPA Grant Number: R828675C001
Subproject: this is subproject number 001 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R828675
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: EAGLES - Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project
Center Director: Niemi, Gerald J.
Title: Great Lakes Diatom and Water Quality Indicators
Investigators: Kingston, John C. , Stoermer, Eugene F. , Kreis, Jr., Russell G. , Johansen, Jeffrey R. , Kelly, John T. , Sgro, Gerald V. , Thompson, Jo , Morrice, John , Yurista, Peder , Axler, Richard
Current Investigators: Reavie, Euan D. , Andresen, Norman A. , Kingston, John C. , Stoermer, Eugene F. , Ferguson, Michael J. , Kireta, Amy R. , Johansen, Jeffrey R. , Sgro, Gerald V. , Axler, Richard
Institution: University of Minnesota , University of Michigan , John Carroll University
Current Institution: University of Minnesota , John Carroll University , University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 10, 2001 through January 9, 2005
RFA: Environmental Indicators in the Estuarine Environment Research Program (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems


The overall objective of this research project is to quantify the extent to which pressure indicators influence diatom community structure in nearshore wetlands, estuaries, and reaches of the Laurentian Great Lakes. The specific objectives of this research project are to: (1) develop predictive models through multivariate analyses of communities and ecosystems to infer ecological status at local and regional scales and describe predisturbance-to-recent baselines, trends, and magnitudes of change in restricted river-influenced and other wetlands; (2) evaluate and modify existing diatom metrics, and devise and validate new diatom metrics, so that a number of state indicators for nutrient loading, siltation, and salinity in nearshore waters of the Great Lakes will be available to federal and state agencies; (3) construct multimetric diatom indices from the best of these state or condition metrics; (4) develop integrated indices of biotic integrity based on a combination of selected metrics developed in the diatom subprogram and by other teams in the larger program; (5) develop a quality assurance/quality control infrastructure for the diatom subprogram and future assessment efforts; and (6) conduct a limited water quality survey (field and laboratory measurements) of nearshore sites contemporaneously with diatom sampling to: (a) calibrate diatom indices, (b) further characterize sampling sites for all Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI) subprojects and related U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mid-Continent Ecology Division (EPA-MED) Great Lakes coastal wetlands projects, and (c) evaluate the efficacy of several relatively inexpensive, "field-friendly" measurements as surrogates for the more expensive suite of analytes typically used to characterize nearshore water quality.


The utility of diatom "state" indicators in evaluating stressors in aquatic ecosystems is well recognized by the EPA and other agencies. Diatom species respond with great fidelity to stressors associated with major "pressure" indicators in the Great Lakes, especially nutrient and salinity loading, siltation, and factors affecting water transparency, such as exotic species. We use a comprehensive approach to developing indicators (multivariate analysis, metrics, and indices) for near-coastal ecosystems. We use methods for indicators suitable for the entire Great Lakes Basin. Retrospective assessment using short sediment cores provides measures of reference condition. Integration with other program components will allow development of indices of biotic integrity (integrated condition) of near-coastal ecosystems. The diatom indices will provide "ground truth" for aquatic responses of landscape measures that are developed in the overall project.

Expected Results:

The research will develop and evaluate indicators by local habitat, lake, ecoregion, and stressor activity/intensity. The diatom project will provide linkages from ecosystem function to water quality and to pressure indicators documented by other subproposals. We are confident that a suite of powerful diatom indicators can be developed for key pressure indicators for use throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 35 publications for this subprojectView all 268 publications for this center

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this subproject: View all 16 journal articles for this subprojectView all 45 journal articles for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

diatom, algae, water quality, metrics, multimetric indices, nutrients, salinity, siltation, Great Lakes, coastal wetlands, environmental indicators., RFA, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Geographic Area, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Nutrients, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Monitoring, Air Deposition, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Great Lakes, Ecological Indicators, Risk Assessment, coastal ecosystem, diatoms, ecological condition, aquatic ecosystem, hydrological stability, nutrient supply, nutrient transport, ecosystem assessment, hierarchically structured indicators, wetland vegetation, environmental stressor, hydrological, coastal environments, environmental consequences, ecological assessment, ecosystem indicators, estuarine ecosystems, nutrient stress, aquatic ecosystems, toxic environmental contaminants, water quality, ecosystem stress, ecological response

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • Final Report

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R828675    EAGLES - Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R828675C001 Great Lakes Diatom and Water Quality Indicators
    R828675C002 Vegetative Indicators of Condition, Integrity, and Sustainability of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands
    R828675C003 Testing Indicators of Coastal Ecosystem Integrity Using Fish and Macroinvertebrates
    R828675C004 Development and Assessment of Environmental Indicators Based on Birds and Amphibians in the Great Lakes Basin
    R828675C005 Development and Evaluation of Chemical Indicators for Monitoring Ecological Risk