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Models as tools for understanding past, recent and future changes in large lakes

Blenckner, Thorsten
Hydrobiologia 2008 v.599 no.1 pp. 177-182
land use change, invasive species, simulation models, lakes, water management, ecosystem management, model uncertainty, ecosystems, pollution load
Large lakes currently exhibit ecosystem responses to environmental changes such as climate and land use changes, nutrient loading, toxic contaminants, hydrological modifications and invasive species. These sources have impacted lake ecosystems over a number of years in various combinations and often in a spatially heterogeneous pattern. At the same time, many different kinds of mathematical models have been developed to help to understand ecosystem processes and improve cost-effective management. Here, the advantages and limitations of models and sources of uncertainty will be discussed. From these considerations and in view of the multiple environmental pressures, the following emerging issues still have to be met in order to improve the understanding of ecosystem function and management of large lakes: (1) the inclusion of thresholds and points-of-no-return; (2) construction of general models to simulate biogeochemical processes for a large number of lakes rather than for individual systems; (3) improvement of the understanding of spatio-temporal variability to quantify biogeochemical fluxes accurately; and (4) inclusion of biogeochemical linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in model approaches to assess the effects of external environmental pressures such as land-use changes. The inclusion of the above-mentioned issues would substantially improve models as tools for the scientific understanding and cost-effective management of large lakes that are subject to multiple environmental pressures in a changing future.