Lakes and reservoirs globally produce large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide in their sediments, which accumulate in the hypolimnia (bottom waters) during thermally stratified conditions. A key parameter controlling hypolimnetic greenhouse gas concentrations is dissolved oxygen. Land use and climate change have increased hypolimnetic anoxia worldwide in lakes and reservoirs, which is expected to affect their methane and carbon dioxide concentrations. We conducted whole‐ecosystem oxygenation experiments to assess the effects of oxygen concentrations on dissolved hypolimnetic greenhouse gas concentrations in comparison to a reference reservoir and calculated the maximum hypolimnetic global warming potential in both reservoirs over three summers. We observed significantly greater hypolimnetic methane under anoxic conditions but similar carbon dioxide concentrations, leading to greater hypolimnetic global warming potential of anoxic hypolimnia. Our study indicates that the global warming potential of hypolimnetic greenhouse gas concentrations may increase as the prevalence of hypolimnetic anoxia increases due to global change.
Oxygen availability is decreasing in many lakes and reservoirs worldwide, raising the urgency for understanding how anoxia (low oxygen) affects coupled biogeochemical cycling, which has major implications for water quality, food webs, and ecosystem functioning. Although the increasing magnitude and prevalence of anoxia has been documented in freshwaters globally, the challenges of disentangling oxygen and temperature responses have hindered assessment of the effects of anoxia on carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus concentrations, stoichiometry (chemical ratios), and retention in freshwaters. The consequences of anoxia are likely severe and may be irreversible, necessitating ecosystem‐scale experimental investigation of decreasing freshwater oxygen availability. To address this gap, we devised and conducted REDOX (the Reservoir Ecosystem Dynamic Oxygenation eXperiment), an unprecedented, 7‐year experiment in which we manipulated and modeled bottom‐water (hypolimnetic) oxygen availability at the whole‐ecosystem scale in a eutrophic reservoir. Seven years of data reveal that anoxia significantly increased hypolimnetic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus concentrations and altered elemental stoichiometry by factors of 2–5× relative to oxic periods. Importantly, prolonged summer anoxia increased nitrogen export from the reservoir by six‐fold and changed the reservoir from a net sink to a net source of phosphorus and organic carbon downstream. While low oxygen in freshwaters is thought of as a response to land use and climate change, results from REDOX demonstrate that low oxygen can also be a
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- Journal Name:
- Global Change Biology
- Medium: X Size: p. 4861-4881
- ["p. 4861-4881"]
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- National Science Foundation
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