Geophysical, water, and sediment surveys were done to characterize the effects of surficial geology, water and sediment chemistry, and surficial-sediment composition on the distribution of variable leaf water-milfoil in Moultonborough Bay, Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Geophysical surveys were conducted in a 180-square-kilometer area, and water-quality and sediment samples were collected from 24 sites in the survey area during July 2005.
Swath-bathymetric data revealed that Moultonborough Bay ranged in depth from less than 1 meter (m) to about 15 m and contained three embayments. Seismic-reflection profiles revealed erosion of the underlying bedrock and subsequent deposition of glaciolacustrine and Holocene lacustrine sediments within the survey area. Sediment thickness ranged from 5 m along the shoreward margins to more than 15 m in the embayments. Data from sidescan sonar, surficial-sediment samples, bottom photographs, and video revealed three distinct lake-floor environments: rocky nearshore, mixed nearshore, and muddy basin. Rocky nearshore environments were found in shallow water (less than 5 m deep) and contained sediments ranging from coarse silt to very coarse sand. Mixed nearshore environments also were found in shallow water and contained sediments ranging from silt to coarse sand with different densities of aquatic vegetation. Muddy basin environments contained the finest-grained sediments, ranging from fine to medium silt, and were in the deepest waters of the bay.
Acoustic Ground Discrimination Systems (AGDS) survey data revealed that 86 percent of the littoral zone (the area along the margins of the bay and islands that extends from 0 to 4.3 m in water depth) contained submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in varying densities: approximately 36 percent contained SAV bottom cover of 25 percent or less, 43 percent contained SAV bottom cover of more than 25 and less than 75 percent, and approximately 7 percent contained SAV bottom cover of more than 75 percent. SAV included variable leaf water-milfoil, native milfoil, bassweed, pipewort, and other species, which were predominantly found near shoreward margins and at depths ranging from less than 1 to 4 m.
AGDS data were used in a Geographic Information System to generate an interpolated map that distinguished variable leaf water-milfoil from other SAV. Furthermore, these data were used to isolate areas susceptible to variable leaf water-milfoil growth. Approximately 21 percent of the littoral zone contained dense beds (more than 59 percent bottom cover) of variable leaf water-milfoil, and an additional 44 percent was determined to be susceptible to variable leaf water-milfoil infestation.
Depths differed significantly between sites with variable leaf water-milfoil and sites with other SAV (p = 0.04). Variable leaf water-milfoil was found at depths that ranged from 1 to 4 m, and other SAV had a depth range of 1 to 2 m. Although variable leaf water-milfoil was observed at greater depths than other SAV, it was not observed below the photic zone.
Analysis of constituent concentrations from the water column, interstitial pore water, and sediment showed little correlation with the presence of variable leaf water-milfoil, with two exceptions. Iron concentrations were significantly lower at variable leaf water-milfoil sites than at other sampling sites (p = 0.04). Similarly, the percentage of total organic carbon also was significantly lower at the variable leaf water-milfoil sites than at other sampling sites (p = 0.04).
Surficial-sediment-grain size had the greatest correlation to the presence of variable leaf water-milfoil. Variable leaf water-milfoil was predominantly growing in areas of coarse sand (median grain-size 0.62 millimeters). Surficial-sediment-grain size was also correlated with total ammonia plus organic nitrogen (Rho = 0.47; p = 0.02) and with total phosphorus (Rho = 0.44; p = 0.05) concentrations in interstitial pore-water samples.