Ecologists typically associate water quality with trophic status, where oligotrophic is considered excellent and presumably provides more aquatic ecosystem services. However, water quality is perceived differently among observers with different worldviews. For example, agriculture and public health sectors quantify the provisioning of aquatic ecosystem services on the basis of different guidelines, but are their guidelines breached more frequently with increasing productivity? We developed an integrative ecosystem service framework using Canadian guidelines as thresholds for drinking, swimming, irrigation, suitability for livestock and aquatic wildlife in rivers. Drinkability was the most sensitive ecosystem service, met in 23% of the sampling events, whereas livestock was provided in 99%. Trophic status is a fair proxy for ecosystem services limited by fecal contamination, because nutrients are related to human and animal populations but not to those limited by metals. Using guideline thresholds to assess the safe provisioning of multiple aquatic ecosystem services across diverse worldviews could facilitate understanding among different perspectives.

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