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Concept: Lakes


Macrophyte decomposition is important for carbon and nutrient cycling in lake ecosystems. Currently, little is known about how this process responds to detritus quality and water nutrient conditions in eutrophic shallow lakes in which incomplete decomposition of detritus accelerates the lake terrestrialization process. In this study, we investigated the effects of detritus quality and water nutrient concentrations on macrophyte decomposition in Lake Baiyangdian, China, by analyzing the decomposition of three major aquatic plants at three sites with different pollution intensities (low, medium, and high pollution sites). Detritus quality refers to detritus nutrient contents as well as C:N, C:P, and N:P mass ratios in this study. Effects of detritus mixtures were tested by combining pairs of representative macrophytes at ratios of 75:25, 50:50 and 25:75 (mass basis). The results indicate that the influence of species types on decomposition was stronger than that of site conditions. Correlation analysis showed that mass losses at the end of the experimental period were significantly controlled by initial detritus chemistry, especially by the initial phosphorus (P) content, carbon to nitrogen (C:N), and carbon to phosphorus (C:P) mass ratios in the detritus. The decomposition processes were also influenced by water chemistry. The NO(3)-N and NH(4)-N concentrations in the lake water retarded detritus mass loss at the low and high pollution sites, respectively. Net P mineralization in detritus was observed at all sites and detritus P release at the high pollution site was slower than at the other two sites. Nonadditive effects of mixtures tended to be species specific due to the different nutrient contents in each species. Results suggest that the nonadditive effects varied significantly among different sites, indicating that interactions between the detritus quality in species mixtures and site water chemistry may be another driver controlling decomposition in eutrophic shallow lakes.

Concepts: Oxygen, Plant, Lake, Eutrophication, Hydrogen, Water pollution, Nitrogen, Lakes


Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) is a serious hazard in high, mountainous regions. In the Himalayas, catastrophic risks of GLOFs have increased in recent years because most Himalayan glaciers have experienced remarkable downwasting under a warming climate. However, current knowledge about the distribution and recent changes in glacial lakes within the central Himalaya mountain range is still limited. Here, we conducted a systematic investigation of the glacial lakes within the entire central Himalaya range by using an object-oriented image processing method based on the Landsat Thematic Mapper ™ or Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM) images from 1990 to 2010. We extracted the lake boundaries for four time points (1990, 2000, 2005 and 2010) and used a time series inspection method combined with a consistent spatial resolution of Landsat images that consistently revealed lake expansion. Our results show that the glacial lakes expanded rapidly by 17.11% from 1990 to 2010. The pre-existing, larger glacial lakes, rather than the newly formed lakes, contributed most to the areal expansion. The greatest expansions occurred at the altitudinal zones between 4800 m and 5600 m at the north side of the main Himalayan range and between 4500 m and 5600 m at the south side, respectively. Based on the expansion rate, area and type of glacial lakes, we identified 67 rapidly expanding glacial lakes in the central Himalayan region that need to be closely monitored in the future. The warming and increasing amounts of light-absorbing constituents of snow and ice could have accelerated the melting that directly affected the glacial lake expansion. Across the main central Himalayas, glacial lakes at the north side show more remarkable expansion than those at the south side. An effective monitoring and warning system for critical glacial lakes is urgently needed.

Concepts: Lake, People's Republic of China, Himalayas, Lakes, Karakoram


Toxic cyanobacterial blooms threaten freshwaters worldwide but have proven difficult to predict because the mechanisms of bloom formation and toxin production are unknown, especially on weekly time scales. Water quality management continues to focus on aggregated metrics, such as chlorophyll and total nutrients, which may not be sufficient to explain complex community changes and functions such as toxin production. For example, nitrogen (N) speciation and cycling play an important role, on daily time scales, in shaping cyanobacterial communities because declining N has been shown to select for N fixers. In addition, subsequent N pulses from N(2) fixation may stimulate and sustain toxic cyanobacterial growth. Herein, we describe how rapid early summer declines in N followed by bursts of N fixation have shaped cyanobacterial communities in a eutrophic lake (Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, USA), possibly driving toxic Microcystis blooms throughout the growing season. On weekly time scales in 2010 and 2011, we monitored the cyanobacterial community in a eutrophic lake using the phycocyanin intergenic spacer (PC-IGS) region to determine population dynamics. In parallel, we measured microcystin concentrations, N(2) fixation rates, and potential environmental drivers that contribute to structuring the community. In both years, cyanobacterial community change was strongly correlated with dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentrations, and Aphanizomenon and Microcystis alternated dominance throughout the pre-toxic, toxic, and post-toxic phases of the lake. Microcystin concentrations increased a few days after the first significant N(2) fixation rates were observed. Then, following large early summer N(2) fixation events, Microcystis increased and became most abundant. Maximum microcystin concentrations coincided with Microcystis dominance. In both years, DIN concentrations dropped again in late summer, and N(2) fixation rates and Aphanizomenon abundance increased before the lake mixed in the fall. Estimated N inputs from N(2) fixation were large enough to supplement, or even support, the toxic Microcystis blooms.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Lake, Eutrophic, Eutrophication, Water pollution, Nitrogen, Limnology, Lakes


Many freshwater lakes undergo seasonal stratification, where the formation of phototrophic blooms in the epilimnion and subsequent sedimentation induces hypoxia/anoxia in the thermocline and hypolimnion. This autochthonously produced biomass represents a major seasonal organic input that impacts the entire ecosystem. While the limnological aspects of this process are fairly well documented, relatively little is known regarding the microbial community response to such events, especially in the deeper anoxic layers of the water column. Here, we conducted a spatiotemporal survey of the particle-associated and free-living microbial communities in a warm monomictic freshwater reservoir (Grand Lake O' the Cherokees) in northeastern Oklahoma, USA. Pre-stratification samples (March) harbored a homogeneous community throughout the oxygenated water column dominated by typical oligotrophic aquatic lineages (acl clade within Actinobacteria, and Flavobacterium within the Bacteroidetes). The onset of phototrophic blooming in June induced the progression of this baseline community into two distinct trajectories. Within the oxic epilimnion, samples were characterized by the propagation of phototrophic (Prochlorococcus), and heterotrophic (Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia, and Beta-Proteobacteria) lineages. Within the oxygen-deficient thermocline and hypolimnion, the sedimentation of surface biomass induced the development of a highly diverse community, with the enrichment of Chloroflexi, “Latescibacteria”, Armatimonadetes, and Delta-Proteobacteria in the particle-associated fraction, and Gemmatimonadetes and “Omnitrophica” in the free-living fraction. Our work documents the development of multiple spatially and temporally distinct niches during lake stratification, and supports the enrichment of multiple yet-uncultured and poorly characterized lineages in the lake’s deeper oxygen-deficient layers, an ecologically relevant microbial niche that is often overlooked in lakes diversity surveys.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Water, Lake, Aquatic ecology, Limnology, Lakes, Epilimnion


Submerged macrophytes play an important role in maintaining good water quality in shallow lakes. Yet extensive stands easily interfere with various services provided by these lakes, and harvesting is increasingly applied as a management measure. Because shallow lakes may possess alternative stable states over a wide range of environmental conditions, designing a successful mowing strategy is challenging, given the important role of macrophytes in stabilizing the clear water state. In this study, the integrated ecosystem model PCLake is used to explore the consequences of mowing, in terms of reducing nuisance and ecosystem stability, for a wide range of external nutrient loadings, mowing intensities and timings. Elodea is used as a model species. Additionally, we use PCLake to estimate how much phosphorus is removed with the harvested biomass, and evaluate the long-term effect of harvesting. Our model indicates that mowing can temporarily reduce nuisance caused by submerged plants in the first weeks after cutting, particularly when external nutrient loading is fairly low. The risk of instigating a regime shift can be tempered by mowing halfway the growing season when the resilience of the system is highest, as our model showed. Up to half of the phosphorus entering the system can potentially be removed along with the harvested biomass. As a result, prolonged mowing can prevent an oligo-to mesotrophic lake from becoming eutrophic to a certain extent, as our model shows that the critical nutrient loading, where the lake shifts to the turbid phytoplankton-dominated state, can be slightly increased.

Concepts: Ecology, Lake, Eutrophic, Eutrophication, Water pollution, Viticulture, Turbidity, Lakes


Coastal marine systems are greatly altered by toxic marine algae, eutrophication and hypoxia. These problems have been linked to decreased ratios of dissolved silica to inorganic nitrogen (Si : DIN) delivered from land. Two mechanisms for this decline under consideration are enhanced nitrogen (N) fertiliser losses from agricultural lands or Si sequestration in reservoirs. Here we examine these mechanisms via nutrient concentrations in impoundments receiving water from 130 watersheds in a landscape representative of the agriculture that often dominates coastal nutrient inputs. Decreased Si : DIN was correlated with agriculture, not impoundment. Watersheds with > 60% agricultural land yielded highest DIN, whereas Si was uncorrelated with agricultural intensity. Furthermore, eutrophic lakes were dominated by Cyanobacteria that use little Si, so reservoirs did not diminish Si : DIN. Instead, Si : DIN increased slightly as reservoir residence time increased. These data suggest that impoundments in agricultural watersheds may enhance the water quality of coastal ecosystems, whereas fertiliser losses are detrimental.

Concepts: Algae, Oxygen, Agriculture, Eutrophication, Water pollution, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Lakes


As the human population grows, the demand for living space and supplies of resources also increases, which may induce rapid change in land-use/land-cover (LULC) and associated pressures exerted on aquatic habitats. We propose a new approach to forecast the impact of regional land cover change and water management policies (i.e., targets in nutrient loads reduction) on lake and reservoir water eutrophication status using a model that requires minimal parameterisation compared with alternative methods. This approach was applied to a set of 48 periurban lakes located in the Ile de France region (IDF, France) to simulate catchment-scale management scenarios. Model outputs were subsequently compared to governmental agencies' 2030 forecasts. Our model indicated that the efforts made to reduce pressure in the catchment of seepage lakes might be expected to be proportional to the gain that might be obtained, whereas drainage lakes will display little improvement until a critical level of pressure reduction is reached. The model also indicated that remediation measures, as currently planned by governmental agencies, might only have a marginal impact on improving the eutrophication status of lakes and reservoirs within the IDF region. Despite the commitment to appropriately managing the water resources in many countries, prospective tools to evaluate the potential impacts of global change on freshwater ecosystems integrity at medium to large spatial scales are lacking. This study proposes a new approach to investigate the impact of region-scale human-driven changes on lake and reservoir ecological status and could be implemented elsewhere with limited parameterisation. Issues are discussed that relate to model uncertainty and to its relevance as a tool applied to decision-making.

Concepts: Water, Lake, Water pollution, Water management, Hydrology, Drainage basin, Water supply, Lakes


The response of periphyton biofilm and the submerged macrophyte tape grass (Vallisneria natans) to internal loading from eutrophic lake sediments were evaluated in microcosms. The sediments from the littoral zone and center of a lake were selected to carry out the microcosm experiment. To determine how the differences in the periphyton biofilm and V. natans growth alone or in combination, we measured changes in water quality, growth, and TP in the periphyton biofilm and V. natans in microcosms containing these sediments. The results showed that the average daily TN and TP removal rates were 32.6 and 35.4%, respectively, in the microcosms containing the lake center sediments by V. natans and the periphyton biofilm. The presence of the periphyton biofilm and V. natans increased the pH, dissolved oxygen, and redox potential and decreased the conductivity in the overlying water in all treatments. Compared to the state before the treatments, V. natans grew well, with a significant increase in biomass (3.1- to 5.5-fold growth) and TP amount (5.1- to 8.8-fold) in all treatments after 48 days. However, the growth of V. natans that combined with the periphyton biofilm was better than that of V. natans alone, as reflected by the dry weight, chlorophyll a content, malondialdehyde content, and TP amount. In conclusion, the periphyton biofilm was beneficial for the growth of V. natans, and the appropriate combination of V. natans and periphyton biofilm would be a potential method for the ecological restoration of eutrophic lakes.

Concepts: Lake, Eutrophic, Eutrophication, Sediment, Aquatic ecology, Limnology, Lakes, Benthic zone


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) plays an important environmental and ecological role in inland aquatic systems, including lakes. In this study, using fluorescence analysis, we investigated the seasonal dynamics of DOM characteristics in Changshou Lake, which is a typical inland lake in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) area. We also discuss the environmental implications of DOM for mercury (Hg) dynamics. Based on the origins of two end-members, the variations in DOM observed in this study in Changshou Lake suggest that hydrological processes (e.g., terrestrial inputs resulting from runoff and humic-like component residences) and biological activities (e.g., microbial and algae growth) are the two main principal components controlling the seasonal dynamics of DOM characteristics. Furthermore, the dynamics of dissolved Hg co-varied with variations in DOM properties, rather than with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. This indicates that the previously reported simple correlations between DOC and Hg were not comprehensive and may lead to misunderstanding the interactions between DOM and Hg. Therefore, we recommend that when using DOM-Hg correlations to evaluate the role of DOM in the environmental fate of Hg, especially in field investigations of the spatial and temporal distribution of Hg, the properties of DOM must be taken into account.

Concepts: Ecology, Lake, Water pollution, Hydrology, Drainage basin, Water quality indicators, Lakes, Colored dissolved organic matter


Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) represent a significant threat in deglaciating environments, necessitating the development of GLOF hazard and risk assessment procedures. Here, we outline a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) approach that can be used to rapidly identify potentially dangerous lakes in regions without existing tailored GLOF risk assessments, where a range of glacial lake types exist, and where field data are sparse or non-existent. Our MCDA model (1) is desk-based and uses freely and widely available data inputs and software, and (2) allows the relative risk posed by a range of glacial lake types to be assessed simultaneously within any region. A review of the factors that influence GLOF risk, combined with the strict rules of criteria selection inherent to MCDA, has allowed us to identify 13 exhaustive, non-redundant, and consistent risk criteria. We use our MCDA model to assess the risk of 16 extant glacial lakes and 6 lakes that have already generated GLOFs, and found that our results agree well with previous studies. For the first time in GLOF risk assessment, we employed sensitivity analyses to test the strength of our model results and assumptions, and to identify lakes that are sensitive to the criteria and risk thresholds used. A key benefit of the MCDA method is that sensitivity analyses are readily undertaken. Overall, these sensitivity analyses lend support to our model, although we suggest that further work is required to determine the relative importance of assessment criteria, and the thresholds that determine the level of risk for each criterion. As a case study, the tested method was then applied to 25 potentially dangerous lakes in the Bolivian Andes, where GLOF risk is poorly understood; 3 lakes are found to pose ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk, and require further detailed investigation.

Concepts: Evaluation, Lake, Assessment, Decision theory, Decision making software, Risk assessment, Glaciology, Lakes