Development of new indices of Great Lakes water quality based on profundal benthic communities

Lyubov E. Burlakova, Katya E. Kovalenko, Kurt L. Schmude, Richard P. Barbiero, Alexander Y. Karatayev, Barry M. Lesht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Benthic invertebrate biomonitoring has long been a tool of choice for assessing the impacts of anthropogenic stress in aquatic systems. The Oligochaete Trophic Index (OTI) is used by the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office to assess Great Lakes trophic status for State of the Great Lakes reporting under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. OTI scores are based on pollution tolerances of ubiquitous profundal oligochaetes. OTI limitations include the fact that the index is based on a limited number of species belonging to a single oligochaete class, species assignment to trophic groups in the index were determined by best professional judgment and cannot be tested independently, and the index's correlation with lake productivity has not been evaluated. To address these concerns, we developed two new indices of Great Lakes water quality based on the OTI equation by: (1) expanding the number of oligochaete species included in the index and reassigning previous classifications of oligochaete species to trophic groups (improved OTI, or iOTI); and (2) adding non-oligochaete species to the OTI (modified Trophic Index, or mTI). Finally, we tested a modeling approach using Modern Analogue Technique (MAT) transfer functions based on species responses to a surface chlorophyll gradient to derive assessment of site trophic status and an independent assignment of species to trophic categories. We found that both iOTI and mTI had a stronger relationship with surface remote-sensed spring chlorophyll than did OTI, but MAT models had stronger correlations with chlorophyll than did any of the indices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)618-628
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Benthic community
  • Biomonitoring
  • Great Lakes
  • Oligochaeta
  • Trophic indices
  • Water quality

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