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  1. Abstract

    Whole lake residence time has been associated with various water quality parameters, including harmful algal blooms. Despite observations of spatial variability in commonly measured lake water quality parameters, little attention is given to the spatial variability of residence time in lakes. In this paper we use water age as a surrogate for residence time and we examine its spatial and temporal distribution in 10 bays of varying size in Lake George, New York (USA). Using a validated hydrodynamic model against observations of water temperature and water currents, and using simulated water age, we show that the average residence time in most of the bays is less than 3 days. Timeseries of bay‐average water age shows that it can sharply decrease within 1 day due to a strong wind event. The average spatial distribution is shown to be non‐uniform, with only a small section of the bottom layer of the bays having a substantially greater age, which may be more than 1 week in certain bays. Snapshots of water age transects indicate that strong wind events substantially change the vertical distribution of water age in some bays, even to the extent of inverting the distribution. The substantial decreases of water age in the bays were associated with the shallowing and deepening of the thermocline. Our results highlight how variations in water residence times within lakes could introduce substantial variation in water quality attributes. Whole lake residence times may serve as a poor proxy to understand the dynamics of water masses, especially in large and morphologically complex waterbodies.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  3. Abstract

    Atmospheric warming heats lakes, but the causes of variation among basins are poorly understood. Here, multi-decadal profiles of water temperatures, trophic state, and local climate from 345 temperate lakes are combined with data on lake geomorphology and watershed characteristics to identify controls of the relative rates of temperature change in water (WT) and air (AT) during summer. We show that differences in local climate (AT, wind speed, humidity, irradiance), land cover (forest, urban, agriculture), geomorphology (elevation, area/depth ratio), and water transparency explain >30% of the difference in rate of lake heating compared to that of the atmosphere. Importantly, the rate of lake heating slows as air warms (P < 0.001). Clear, cold, and deep lakes, especially at high elevation and in undisturbed catchments, are particularly responsive to changes in atmospheric temperature. We suggest that rates of surface water warming may decline relative to the atmosphere in a warmer future, particularly in sites already experiencing terrestrial development or eutrophication.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Climate change has myriad impacts on ecosystems, but the mechanisms by which it affects individual species can be difficult to pinpoint. One strategy to discover such mechanisms is to identify a specific ecological factor related to survival or reproduction and determine how that factor is affected by climate. Here we used Landsat imagery to calculate water clarity for 127 lakes in northern Wisconsin from 1995 to 2021 and thus investigate the effect of clarity on the body condition of an aquatic visual predator, the common loon (Gavia immer). In addition, we examined rainfall and temperature as potential predictors of water clarity. Body mass tracked July water clarity strongly in loon chicks, which grow chiefly in that month, but weakly in adult males and females. Long‐term mean water clarity was negatively related to chick mass but positively related to adult male mass, suggesting that loons foraging in generally clear lakes enjoy good foraging conditions in the long run but might be sensitive to perturbations in clarity during chick‐rearing. Finally, chick mass was positively related to the density of docks, perhaps because angling removes large fishes and thus boosts the abundance of the small fishes on which chicks depend. Water clarity itself declined strongly from 1995 to 2021, was negatively related to July rainfall, and was positively related to July air temperature. Our findings identified both long‐term and short‐term water clarity as strong predictors of loon foraging efficiency, and suggest that climate change, through water clarity, impacts freshwater ecosystems profoundly. Moreover, our results identified the recent decrease in water clarity as a likely cause of population decline in common loons.

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  5. Abstract

    Depth regulates many attributes of aquatic ecosystems, but relatively few lakes are measured, and existing datasets are biased toward large lakes. To address this, we used a large dataset of maximum (Zmax;n = 16,831) and mean (Zmean;n = 5,881) depth observations to create new depth models, focusing on lakes < 1,000 ha. We then used the models to characterize patterns in lake basin shape and volume. We included terrain metrics, water temperature and reflectance, polygon attributes, and other predictors in a random forest model. Our final models generally outperformed existing models (Zmax; root mean square error [RMSE] = 8.0 m andZmean; RMSE = 3.0 m). Our models show that lake depth followed a Pareto distribution, with 2.8 orders of magnitude fewer lakes for an order of magnitude increase in depth. In addition, despite orders of magnitude variation in surface area, most size classes had a modal maximum depth of ~ 5 m. Concave (bowl‐shaped) lake basins represented 79% of all lakes, but lakes were more convex (funnel‐shaped) as surface area increased. Across the conterminous United States, 9.8% of all lake water was within the top meter of the water column, and 48% in the top 10 m. Excluding the Laurentian Great Lakes, we estimate the total volume in the conterminous United States is 1,057–1,294 km3, depending on whetherZmaxorZmeanwas modeled. Lake volume also exhibited substantial geographic variation, with high volumes in the upper Midwest, Northeast, and Florida and low volumes in the southwestern United States.

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  6. Abstract

    This Assessment Update by the Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (EEAP) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) considers the interactive effects of solar UV radiation, global warming, and other weathering factors on plastics. The Assessment illustrates the significance of solar UV radiation in decreasing the durability of plastic materials, degradation of plastic debris, formation of micro- and nanoplastic particles and accompanying leaching of potential toxic compounds. Micro- and nanoplastics have been found in all ecosystems, the atmosphere, and in humans. While the potential biological risks are not yet well-established, the widespread and increasing occurrence of plastic pollution is reason for continuing research and monitoring. Plastic debris persists after its intended life in soils, water bodies and the atmosphere as well as in living organisms. To counteract accumulation of plastics in the environment, the lifetime of novel plastics or plastic alternatives should better match the functional life of products, with eventual breakdown releasing harmless substances to the environment.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 21, 2025
  7. Abstract

    Dissolved organic matter (DOM), often measured as dissolved organic carbon (DOC), plays a fundamental role in influencing the structure and function of lake ecosystems. Due to the myriad ecosystem effects of DOM, widespread observations of long‐term increasing DOM concentrations have received much attention from ecologists. DOM positively influences primary production and consumer production at low concentrations due to the fertilising influence of bound nutrients. However, beyond a unimodal peak in production, a reduced light environment may result in a negative effect on production. This unimodal model has been largely developed and tested in lakes with low to moderate DOM concentrations (i.e., typically ≤10 mg/L DOC).

    To understand ecological responses in lakes across a larger range in DOM concentrations, we examined the response of benthic invertebrate communities in 148 Swedish lakes with DOM concentrations ranging between 0.67 and 32.77 mg/L DOC.

    We found that increasing DOM concentrations had a strong effect on invertebrate community composition belowc.10 mg/L. Across this range, abundances of individual taxa both increased and decreased, probably in response to environmental change induced by DOM. However, in lakes above this concentration, increasing DOM had minimal influence on community composition.

    As DOM concentrations continue to increase, faunal communities in lakes below this 10 mg/L DOC threshold are likely to undergo substantial change whereas those above this threshold are likely to be minimally impacted.

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  8. Rapid changes in climate and land use are having substantial and interacting impacts on lake water quality around the world. Here, we synthesized time-series data for dissolved oxygen, temperature, chlorophyll-a, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and dissolved organic carbon at multiple depths in 822 lakes to facilitate analyses of these changes. The dataset extends from 1921–2022, with a median data duration of 29 years (range 5-102) and a median of 5 unique sampling dates per year at each lake. Lakes in the dataset have a median depth of 12.5 m (range 1.5–480 m), median surface area of 85.4 ha (range: 0.5–237000 ha) and median elevation of 264 m (range: -215–2804). The lakes are located in 18 countries across 5 continents, with latitudes ranging from -42.6 to 68.3. To facilitate interoperability with other large-scale datasets, each lake is linked to a unique hydroLAKES lake ID when possible (n = 683). 
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