Terrestrial organic matter and light penetration: Effects on bacterial and primary production in lakes

Ask, Jenny, Jan Karlsson, Lennart Persson, Per Ask, Pär Byström, Mats Jansson

Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(6), 2009, 2034-2040 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.6.2034

ABSTRACT: We investigated productivity at the basal trophic level in 15 unproductive lakes in a gradient ranging from clear-water to brown-water (humic) lakes in northern Sweden. Primary production and bacterial production in benthic and pelagic habitats were measured to estimate the variation in energy mobilization from external energy sources (primary production plus bacterial production on allochthonous organic carbon) along the gradient. Clear-water lakes were dominated by autotrophic energy mobilization in the benthic habitat, whereas humic lakes were dominated by heterotrophic energy mobilization in the pelagic habitat. Whole-lake (benthic + pelagic) energy mobilization was negatively correlated to the light-extinction coefficient, which was determined by colored terrestrial organic matter in the lake water. Thus, variation in the concentration of terrestrial organic matter and its light-absorbing characteristics exerts strong control on the magnitude, as well as on the processes and pathways, of energy mobilization in unproductive lakes. We suggest that unproductive lakes in general are sensitive to input of terrestrial organic matter because of its effects on basal energy mobilization in both benthic and pelagic habitats.

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