Lakes at Risk of Chloride Contamination
Lakes in the Midwest and Northeast United States are at risk of anthropogenic chloride contamination, but there is little knowledge of the prevalence and spatial distribution of freshwater salinization. Here we use a quantile regression forest (QRF) to leverage information from 2773 lakes to predict the chloride concentration of all 49 432 lakes greater than 4 ha in a 17-state area. The QRF incorporated 22 predictor variables, which included lake morphometry characteristics, watershed land use, and distance to the nearest road and interstate. Model predictions had an r(2) of 0.94 for all chloride observations, and an r(2) of 0.86 for predictions of the median chloride concentration observed at each lake. The four predictors with the largest influence on lake chloride concentrations were low and medium intensity development in the watershed, crop density in the watershed, and distance to the nearest interstate. Almost 2000 lakes are predicted to have chloride concentrations above 50 mg L(-1 )and should be monitored.( )We encourage( ) management and governing agencies to use lake-specific model predictions to assess salt contamination risk as well as to augment their monitoring strategies to more comprehensively protect freshwater ecosystems from salinization.