Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Limnology and Oceanography Letters


Water clarity is a subjective term and can be measured multiple ways. Different metrics such as light attenuation and Secchi depth vary in effectiveness depending on the research or management application. In this essay, we argue that different questions merit different water clarity metrics. In coastal and inland waters, empirical relationships to estimate light attenuation can yield clarity estimates that either under- or overestimate the underwater light climate for restoration goals, such as potential habitat available for submerged aquatic vegetation. Best practices in reporting water clarity measurements include regionally specific, temporally representative calibrations and communicating the metric that was actually measured. An intentional choice of the water clarity metric best suited to the research or management question yields the most useful results.


doi: 10.1002/lol2.10301

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Statement

See also data available at:

Turner, Jessica S., Friedrichs, Carl T., and Fall, Kelsey A. (2022) A Data Repository for Clarifying water clarity: a call to use metrics best suited to corresponding research and management goals in aquatic ecosystems (York River estuary case study dataset). Data. William & Mary ScholarWorks.

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Oceanography Commons