Delving deeper: Metabolic processes in the metalimnion of stratified lakes

Darren P. Giling, Peter A. Staehr, Hans Peter Grossart, Mikkel René Andersen, Bertram Boehrer, Carmelo Escot, Fatih Evrendilek, Lluís Gómez-Gener, Mark Honti, Ian D. Jones, Nusret Karakaya, Alo Laas, Enrique Moreno-Ostos, Karsten Rinke, Ulrike Scharfenberger, Silke R. Schmidt, Michael Weber, R. Iestyn Woolway, Jacob A. Zwart, Biel Obrador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Many lakes exhibit seasonal stratification, during which they develop strong thermal and chemical gradients. An expansion of depth-integrated monitoring programs has provided insight into the importance of organic carbon processing that occurs below the upper mixed layer. However, the chemical and physical drivers of metabolism and metabolic coupling remain unresolved, especially in the metalimnion. In this depth zone, sharp gradients in key resources such as light and temperature co-occur with dynamic physical conditions that influence metabolic processes directly and simultaneously hamper the accurate tracing of biological activity. We evaluated the drivers of metalimnetic metabolism and its associated uncertainty across 10 stratified lakes in Europe and North America. We hypothesized that the metalimnion would contribute highly to whole-lake functioning in clear oligotrophic lakes, and that metabolic rates would be highly variable in unstable polymictic lakes. Depth-integrated rates of gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) were modelled from diel dissolved oxygen curves using a Bayesian approach. Metabolic estimates were more uncertain below the epilimnion, but uncertainty was not consistently related to lake morphology or mixing regime. Metalimnetic rates exhibited high day-to-day variability in all trophic states, with the metalimnetic contribution to daily whole-lake GPP and ER ranging from 0% to 87% and < 1% to 92%, respectively. Nonetheless, the metalimnion of low-nutrient lakes contributed strongly to whole-lake metabolism on average, driven by a collinear combination of highlight, low surface-water phosphorous concentration and high metalimnetic volume. Consequently, a single-sensor approach does not necessarily reflect whole-ecosystem carbon dynamics in stratified lakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1288-1306
Number of pages19
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


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