The majority of inland lakes throughout the world are subject to some degree of development pressures. These pressures include overdevelopment of shorelines, increased erosion and sedimentation, increased nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, increased submersed aquatic plant and algae growth, increased presence of invasive and exotic species, increased bacteria levels, and decreased water levels. A lake in its purely natural, undisturbed state will usually be in balance and have many pristine qualities. Furthermore, a lake with high biodiversity is more resilient and can better cope with adverse disturbances such as overdevelopment, invasive species, or harsh climate. The reality is that humankind desires to utilize the many ecosystem services that lakes provide and thus we must strive to fund ways that both can co-exist. There are distinctive differences between lake management and lake restoration.
Lake Management pertains to an “after the damage” approach that aims to either prevent the lake from further damage or to sustain the lake in its current state. Improvements here are limited to more prescriptive methods that have a goal of maintenance. Examples of lake management methods include the application of aquatic herbicides for nuisance aquatic plant control, the construction of augmentation wells or dams to regulate water levels, and the application of biological control vectors to organically control another nuisance species.
Lake Restoration may be referred to as a pro-active approach that aims to bring the lake back to its original and more pristine state. With this approach, the implemented strategy is often long-term and may lead to a change in trophic (classification) status back to a desired state. Examples of lake restoration include planting beneficial native aquatic plants to increase biodiversity and laminar flow aeration with bioaugmentation to biodegrade organic muck on lake bottoms. The restorative approach aims toward sustainability so that the lake ecosystem can eventually remain at an improved state with less maintenance.