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  1. Abstract

    Small freshwater reservoirs are ubiquitous and likely play an important role in global greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets relative to their limited water surface area. However, constraining annual GHG fluxes in small freshwater reservoirs is challenging given their footprint area and spatially and temporally variable emissions. To quantify the GHG budget of a small (0.1 km2) reservoir, we deployed an Eddy covariance (EC) system in a small reservoir located in southwestern Virginia, USA over 2 years to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) fluxes near‐continuously. Fluxes were coupled with in situ sensors measuring multiple environmental parameters. Over both years, we found the reservoir to be a large source of CO2(633–731 g CO2‐C m−2 yr−1) and CH4(1.02–1.29 g CH4‐C m−2 yr−1) to the atmosphere, with substantial sub‐daily, daily, weekly, and seasonal timescales of variability. For example, fluxes were substantially greater during the summer thermally stratified season as compared to the winter. In addition, we observed significantly greater GHG fluxes during winter intermittent ice‐on conditions as compared to continuous ice‐on conditions, suggesting GHG emissions from lakes and reservoirs may increase with predicted decreases in winter ice‐cover. Finally, we identified several key environmental variables that may be driving reservoir GHG fluxes at multiple timescales, including, surface water temperature and thermocline depth followedmore »by fluorescent dissolved organic matter. Overall, our novel year‐round EC data from a small reservoir indicate that these freshwater ecosystems likely contribute a substantial amount of CO2and CH4to global GHG budgets, relative to their surface area.

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  2. Abstract

    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 thoughtmore »of as a response to land use and climate change, results from REDOX demonstrate that low oxygen can also be adriverof major changes to freshwater biogeochemical cycling, which may serve as an intensifying feedback that increases anoxia in downstream waterbodies. Consequently, as climate and land use change continue to increase the prevalence of anoxia in lakes and reservoirs globally, it is likely that anoxia will have major effects on freshwater carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus budgets as well as water quality and ecosystem functioning.

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  3. Abstract

    Near‐term ecological forecasts provide resource managers advance notice of changes in ecosystem services, such as fisheries stocks, timber yields, or water quality. Importantly, ecological forecasts can identify where there is uncertainty in the forecasting system, which is necessary to improve forecast skill and guide interpretation of forecast results. Uncertainty partitioning identifies the relative contributions to total forecast variance introduced by different sources, including specification of the model structure, errors in driver data, and estimation of current states (initial conditions). Uncertainty partitioning could be particularly useful in improving forecasts of highly variable cyanobacterial densities, which are difficult to predict and present a persistent challenge for lake managers. As cyanobacteria can produce toxic and unsightly surface scums, advance warning when cyanobacterial densities are increasing could help managers mitigate water quality issues. Here, we fit 13 Bayesian state‐space models to evaluate different hypotheses about cyanobacterial densities in a low nutrient lake that experiences sporadic surface scums of the toxin‐producing cyanobacterium,Gloeotrichia echinulata. We used data from several summers of weekly cyanobacteria samples to identify dominant sources of uncertainty for near‐term (1‐ to 4‐week) forecasts ofG. echinulatadensities. Water temperature was an important predictor of cyanobacterial densities during model fitting and at the 4‐week forecastmore »horizon. However, no physical covariates improved model performance over a simple model including the previous week's densities in 1‐week‐ahead forecasts. Even the best fit models exhibited large variance in forecasted cyanobacterial densities and did not capture rare peak occurrences, indicating that significant explanatory variables when fitting models to historical data are not always effective for forecasting. Uncertainty partitioning revealed that model process specification and initial conditions dominated forecast uncertainty. These findings indicate that long‐term studies of different cyanobacterial life stages and movement in the water column as well as measurements of drivers relevant to different life stages could improve model process representation of cyanobacteria abundance. In addition, improved observation protocols could better define initial conditions and reduce spatial misalignment of environmental data and cyanobacteria observations. Our results emphasize the importance of ecological forecasting principles and uncertainty partitioning to refine and understand predictive capacity across ecosystems.

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  4. Abstract

    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.

  5. Abstract

    Freshwater ecosystems are experiencing greater variability due to human activities, necessitating new tools to anticipate future water quality. In response, we developed and deployed a real‐time iterative water temperature forecasting system (FLARE—Forecasting Lake And Reservoir Ecosystems). FLARE is composed of water temperature and meteorology sensors that wirelessly stream data, a data assimilation algorithm that uses sensor observations to update predictions from a hydrodynamic model and calibrate model parameters, and an ensemble‐based forecasting algorithm to generate forecasts that include uncertainty. Importantly, FLARE quantifies the contribution of different sources of uncertainty (driver data, initial conditions, model process, and parameters) to each daily forecast of water temperature at multiple depths. We applied FLARE to Falling Creek Reservoir (Vinton, Virginia, USA), a drinking water supply, during a 475‐day period encompassing stratified and mixed thermal conditions. Aggregated across this period, root mean square error (RMSE) of daily forecasted water temperatures was 1.13°C at the reservoir's near‐surface (1.0 m) for 7‐day ahead forecasts and 1.62°C for 16‐day ahead forecasts. The RMSE of forecasted water temperatures at the near‐sediments (8.0 m) was 0.87°C for 7‐day forecasts and 1.20°C for 16‐day forecasts. FLARE successfully predicted the onset of fall turnover 4–14 days in advance in two sequential years. Uncertainty partitioningmore »identified meteorology driver data as the dominant source of uncertainty in forecasts for most depths and thermal conditions, except for the near‐sediments in summer, when model process uncertainty dominated. Overall, FLARE provides an open‐source system for lake and reservoir water quality forecasting to improve real‐time management.

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  6. Abstract

    Simulation models are increasingly used by ecologists to study complex, ecosystem‐scale phenomena, but integrating ecosystem simulation modeling into ecology undergraduate and graduate curricula remains rare. Engaging ecology students with ecosystem simulation models may enable students to conduct hypothesis‐driven scientific inquiry while also promoting their use of systems thinking, but it remains unknown how using hands‐on modeling activities in the classroom affects student learning. Here, we developed short (3‐hr) teaching modules as part of the Macrosystems EDDIE (Environmental Data‐Driven Inquiry & Exploration) program that engage students with hands‐on ecosystem modeling in the R statistical environment. We embedded the modules into in‐person ecology courses at 17 colleges and universities and assessed student perceptions of their proficiency and confidence before and after working with models. Across all 277 undergraduate and graduate students who participated in our study, completing one Macrosystems EDDIE teaching module significantly increased students' self‐reported proficiency, confidence, and likely future use of simulation models, as well as their perceived knowledge of ecosystem simulation models. Further, students were significantly more likely to describe that an important benefit of ecosystem models was their “ease of use” after completing a module. Interestingly, students were significantly more likely to provide evidence of systems thinkingmore »in their assessment responses about the benefits of ecosystem models after completing a module, suggesting that these hands‐on ecosystem modeling activities may increase students’ awareness of how individual components interact to affect system‐level dynamics. Overall, Macrosystems EDDIE modules help students gain confidence in their ability to use ecosystem models and provide a useful method for ecology educators to introduce undergraduate and graduate students to ecosystem simulation modeling using in‐person, hybrid, or virtual modes of instruction.

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  7. Abstract

    The relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control of phytoplankton biomass in aquatic ecosystems has been long debated and studied. However, few studies have considered the relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control on phytoplankton vertical distributions and characteristics of deep chlorophyll maxima (DCMs), and fewer still have investigated the importance of these drivers for multiple phytoplankton groups. We examined depth profiles of four phytoplankton spectral groups and a suite of top‐down (zooplankton) and bottom‐up (nutrients, temperature, and light) drivers from 51 north temperate lakes varying on gradients of size, trophic state, light availability, and thermal stratification. We used regression trees to identify the most important drivers of different vertical distribution metrics for each phytoplankton spectral group. The relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control varied across spectral groups and was related to the characteristics of the dominant taxa within each spectral group, as assessed by microscope counts. Zooplankton biomass was the most important driver of brown algae vertical distributions, likely because this group contained highly edible taxa (primarily chrysophytes), while thermal stratification predicted vertical distributions of buoyancy‐regulating cyanobacteria. Our work highlights the importance of examining phytoplankton community composition to improve understanding of DCM characteristics and top‐down vs. bottom‐upmore »control of phytoplankton in aquatic systems.

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  8. Abstract

    Lakes are traditionally classified based on their thermal regime and trophic status. While this classification adequately captures many lakes, it is not sufficient to understand seasonally ice‐covered lakes, the most common lake type on Earth. We describe the inverse thermal stratification in 19 highly varying lakes and derive a model that predicts the temperature profile as a function of wind stress, area, and depth. The results suggest an additional subdivision of seasonally ice‐covered lakes to differentiate underice stratification. When ice forms in smaller and deeper lakes, inverse stratification will form with a thin buoyant layer of cold water (near 0°C) below the ice, which remains above a deeper 4°C layer. In contrast, the entire water column can cool to ∼0°C in larger and shallower lakes. We suggest these alternative conditions for dimictic lakes be termed “cryostratified” and “cryomictic.”

  9. Abstract

    Globally, phytoplankton abundance is increasing in lakes as a result of climate change and land‐use change. The relative importance of climate and land‐use drivers has been examined primarily for mesotrophic and eutrophic lakes. However, oligotrophic lakes show different sensitivity to climate and land‐use drivers than mesotrophic and eutrophic lakes, necessitating further exploration of the relative contribution of the two drivers of change to increased phytoplankton abundance. Here, we investigated how air temperature (a driver related to climate change) and nutrient load (a driver related to land‐use and climate change) interact to alter water quality in oligotrophic Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, USA. We used long‐term data and the one‐dimensional hydrodynamic General Lake Model (GLM) coupled with Aquatic EcoDyanmics (AED) modules to simulate water quality. Over the 31‐year simulation, summer median chlorophyll‐aconcentration was positively associated with summer air temperature, whereas annual maximum chlorophyll‐aconcentration was positively associated with the previous 3 years of external phosphorus load. Scenario testing demonstrated a 2°C increase in air temperature significantly increased summer median chlorophyll‐aconcentration, but not annual maximum chlorophyll‐aconcentration. For both maximum and median chlorophyll‐aconcentration, doubling external nutrient loads of total nitrogen and total phosphorus at the same time, or doubling phosphorus alone, resulted in a significantmore »increase. This study highlights the importance of aligning lake measurements with the ecosystem metrics of interest, as maximum chlorophyll‐aconcentration may be more uniquely sensitive to nutrient load and that typical summer chlorophyll‐aconcentration may increase due to warming alone.

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  10. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024