skip to main content

Title: Smoke from regional wildfires alters lake ecology

Wildfire smoke often covers areas larger than the burned area, yet the impacts of smoke on nearby aquatic ecosystems are understudied. In the summer of 2018, wildfire smoke covered Castle Lake (California, USA) for 55 days. We quantified the influence of smoke on the lake by comparing the physics, chemistry, productivity, and animal ecology in the prior four years (2014–2017) to the smoke year (2018). Smoke reduced incident ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation by 31% and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) by 11%. Similarly, underwater UV-B and PAR decreased by 65 and 44%, respectively, and lake heat content decreased by 7%. While the nutrient limitation of primary production did not change, shallow production in the offshore habitat increased by 109%, likely due to a release from photoinhibition. In contrast, deep-water, primary production decreased and the deep-water peak in chlorophylladid not develop, likely due to reduced PAR. Despite the structural changes in primary production, light, and temperature, we observed little significant change in zooplankton biomass, community composition, or migration pattern. Trout were absent from the littoral-benthic habitat during the smoke period. The duration and intensity of smoke influences light regimes, heat content, and productivity, with differing responses to consumers.

; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1950170 1754276 2102344
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Wildfire smoke is frequently present over the U.S. during the agricultural growing season and will likely increase with climate change. Studies of smoke impacts have largely focused on air quality and human health; however, understanding smoke's impact on photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) is essential for predicting how smoke affects plant growth. We compare surface shortwave irradiance and diffuse fraction (DF) on smoke‐impacted and smoke‐free days from 2006 to 2020 using data from multifilter rotating shadowband radiometers at 10 U.S. Department of Agriculture UV‐B Monitoring and Research Program stations and smoke plume locations from operational satellite products. On average, 20% of growing season days are smoke‐impacted, but smoke prevalence increases over time (r = 0.60,p < 0.05). Smoke presence peaks in the mid to late growing season (i.e., July, August), particularly over the northern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Midwest. We find an increase in the distribution of PAR DF on smoke‐impacted days, with larger increases at lower cloud fractions. On clear‐sky days, daily average PAR DF increases by 10 percentage points when smoke is present. Spectral analysis of clear‐sky days shows smoke increases DF (average: +45%) and decreases total irradiance (average: −6%) across all six wavelengths measured from 368 to 870 nm. Optical depthmore »measurements from ground and satellite observations both indicate that spectral DF increases and total spectral irradiance decreases with increasing smoke plume optical depth. Our analysis provides a foundation for understanding smoke's impact on PAR, which carries implications for agricultural crop productivity under a changing climate.

    « less
  2. We present and evaluate an update to the process‐based lake model MyLake that includes a time‐varying linkage between light attenuation of both photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation wavelengths to changes in dissolved organic carbon (DOC). In many parts of northeastern North America and Europe, DOC in lakes has rapidly increased, leading to reduced water transparency and increases in light attenuation. These changes alter the vertical light and heat distribution that affect vertical structuring of temperature and dissolved oxygen. We use this model update to test the responsiveness of PAR and UV attenuation to short‐term fluctuations in DOC and with a test case of long‐term browning at Lake Giles (Pennsylvania). Lake Giles has browned significantly since the late 1980s, and three decades of detailed empirical data have indicated more than a doubling of DOC concentrations, and consequent increases in PAR and UV attenuation, warming surface waters, cooling deep waters, and increasing deepwater oxygen depletion. We found that the model performance improved by 16% and 52% for long‐term trends in PAR and UV attenuation, respectively, when these coefficients respond directly to in‐lake DOC concentrations. Further, long‐term trends in surface water warming, deepwater cooling, and deepwater oxygen depletion in Lakemore »Giles were better captured by the model following this update, and were very rapid due to its high water transparency and low DOC. Hence, incorporating a responsive link between DOC and light attenuation in lake models is key to understanding long‐term lake browning patterns, mechanisms, and ecological consequences.

    « less
  3. Abstract

    To assess climate‐mediated terrestrial‐aquatic linkages in Arctic lakes and potential impacts on light attenuation and carbon cycling, we evaluated lake responses to climate drivers in two areas of west Greenland with differing climate patterns. We selected four lakes in a warmer, drier area to compare with four lakes from a cooler, wetter area proximal to the Greenland Ice Sheet. In June from 2013–2018, we measured epilimnetic water temperature, 1% depth of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA254), DOC‐normalized absorbance at 380 nm (a*380), and chlorophylla. Interannual coherence of 1% PAR and DOC was particularly high for lakes within the warmer, drier area. This coherence suggests forcing of Arctic lake features by a large‐scale driver, likely climate. Redundancy analysis showed that monthly average precipitation, winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index (NAOW), spring average air temperature, and spring average precipitation influenced the lake variables (p= 0.003, adj.R2= 0.58). In particular, monthly average precipitation contributed to increases in soil‐derived DOC quality metrics and chlorophyllaand decreased 1% PAR. Interannual changes in lake responses to climate drivers were more apparent in the warmer, drier area than the cooler, wetter area. The interannual lake responses within and between areas,more »associated with climate trends, suggest that with ongoing rapid climate change in the Arctic, there could be widespread impacts on key lake responses important for light attenuation and carbon cycling.

    « less
  4. <italic>Abstract</italic>

    The attenuation of solar radiation controls many processes and characteristics of aquatic ecosystems and is a sentinel of larger‐scale environmental change. While light attenuation is often characterized with a single broadband diffuse attenuation coefficient of photosynthetically active radiation (KdPAR), attenuation can exhibit substantial variability across the solar spectrum and through time and space. Understanding this variability and its proximate causes may provide information to characterize large‐scale environmental change. We implemented a semi‐analyticalKdmodel in four segments of the Rhode River sub‐estuary of the Chesapeake Bay to examine spectral, spatial, and temporal variability inKdacross the ultraviolet (UV) to PAR wavelengths (290–710 nm) over the period 1986–2014. We used this model to identify wavelengths most sensitive to long‐term change, the seasonal phenology of long‐term change, and the optical constituents driving changes. The model included contributions by phytoplankton,non‐algal particulates,chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and water. Over the period of record,Kdincreased (water transparency decreased) in both UV and PAR wavelengths, with the largest increases at the most upstream site, during summer months, and at short UV wavelengths. These increases were due primarily to an increase in non‐algal particulates, and particularly since year 2005, however there was substantial seasonality inKd. The model reveals how different changesmore »in water quality have a differential effect on UV and PAR attenuation, and enables insight into what types of long‐term change in transparency have occurred over the long period of human impacts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

    « less
  5. Abstract

    Light use efficiency (LUE) of salt marshes has not been well studied but is central to production efficiency models (PEMs) used for estimating gross primary production (GPP). Salt marshes are typically dominated by a species monoculture, resulting in large areas with distinct morphology and physiology. We measured eddy covariance atmospheric CO2fluxes for two marshes dominated by a different species:Juncus roemerianusin Mississippi andSpartina alterniflorain Georgia. LUE for theJuncusmarsh (mean = 0.160 ± 0.004 g C mol−1photon), reported here for the first time, was on average similar to theSpartinamarsh (mean = 0.164 ± 0.003 g C mol−1photon). However,JuncusLUE had a greater range (0.073–0.49 g C mol−1photon) and higher variability (15.2%) than theSpartinamarsh (range: 0.035–0.36 g C mol−1photon; variability: 12.7%). We compared the responses of LUE across six environmental gradients.JuncusLUE was predominantly driven by cloudiness, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), soil temperature, water table, and vapor pressure deficit.SpartinaLUE was driven by water table, air temperature, and cloudiness. We also tested how the definition of LUE (incident PAR vs. absorbed PAR) affected the magnitude of LUE and its response. We found LUE estimations using incident PAR underestimated LUE and masked day‐to‐day variability. Our findings suggest that salt marsh LUE parametrization should be species‐specific due to plant morphology and physiology and their geographic context. These findings canmore »be used to improve PEMs for modeling blue carbon productivity.

    « less