Lake metabolism and the diel oxygen technique: State of the science

Peter A. Staehr, Darren Bade, Matthew C. Van de Bogert, Gregory R. Koch, Craig Williamson, Paul Hanson, Jonathan J. Cole, and Tim Kratz

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 8:628-644 (2010) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2010.8.0628

ABSTRACT: Significant improvements have been made in estimating gross primary production (GPP), ecosystem respiration (R), and net ecosystem production (NEP) from diel, “free-water” changes in dissolved oxygen (DO). Here we evaluate some of the assumptions and uncertainties that are still embedded in the technique and provide guidelines on how to estimate reliable metabolic rates from high-frequency sonde data. True whole-system estimates are often not obtained because measurements reflect an unknown zone of influence which varies over space and time. A minimum logging frequency of 30 min was sufficient to capture metabolism at the daily time scale. Higher sampling frequencies capture additional pattern in the DO data, primarily related to physical mixing. Causes behind the often large daily variability are discussed and evaluated for an oligotrophic and a eutrophic lake. Despite a 3-fold higher day-to-day variability in absolute GPP rates in the eutrophic lake, both lakes required at least 3 sonde days per week for GPP estimates to be within 20% of the weekly average. A sensitivity analysis evaluated uncertainties associated with DO measurements, piston velocity (k), and the assumption that daytime R equals nighttime R. In low productivity lakes, uncertainty in DO measurements and piston velocity strongly impacts R but has no effect on GPP or NEP. Lack of accounting for higher R during the day underestimates R and GPP but has no effect on NEP. We finally provide suggestions for future research to improve the technique.