Global warming: Design of a flow-through shallow lake mesocosm climate experiment

Lone Liboriussen, Frank Landkildehus, Mariana Meerhoff, Mette E. Bramm, Morten Søndergaard, Kirsten Christoffersen, Katherine Richardson, Martin Søndergaard, Torben L. Lauridsen,Erik Jeppesen

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 3:1-9 (2005) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2005.3.1

ABSTRACT: Shallow lakes are likely to be strongly impacted by climate changes and, in particular, by increased temperatures. To enable realistic experimental studies of the effects of higher temperatures on in-lake processes and dynamics, technologically advanced systems are required. This paper presents design details, operating characteristics, and background information on a currently operating experimental flow-through mesocosm system that allows investigation of the interactions between simulated climate warming and eutrophication and their impacts on biological structure and ecosystem processes in shallow lakes. We use 24 mesocosms to combine three temperature scenarios (one unheated and two heated relative to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate scenario A2 and A2 + 50%, respectively) and two nutrient levels (enriched and nonenriched). Planktivorous fish (male sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus) are stocked in accordance with the nutrient level. The water residence time is regulated by the semicontinuous addition of water and is approximately 2.5 mo in each mesocosm. For heating, we use electrically powered heating elements. The heating system has performed well over 16 mo of continuous heating, and seasonal and diurnal temperature variations of the unheated reference mesocosms were paralleled well by the heated mesocosms. The performance of the flow-through system and the heating technique are discussed with special emphasis on strengths, limitations, and potential improvements of the system. To illustrate the performance of the system and its potential, we present data for selected periods on total phosphorus retention in the mesocosms and system primary production and respiration.