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Light and nutrient control phytoplankton biomass responses to global change in northern lakes

Bergström, Ann‐Kristin, Karlsson, Jan
Global change biology 2019 v.25 no.6 pp. 2021-2029
biomass, color, eutrophication, global change, lakes, models, monitoring, nutrient availability, nutrients, organic carbon, phytoplankton, pollution load, surveys, Sweden
Global change affects terrestrial loadings of colored dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrients to northern lakes. Still, little is known about how phytoplankton respond to changes in light and nutrient availability across gradients in lake DOC. In this study, we used results from whole‐lake studies in northern Sweden to show that annual mean phytoplankton biomass expressed unimodal curved relationships across lake DOC gradients, peaking at threshold DOC levels of around 11 mg/L. Whole‐lake single nutrient enrichment in selected lakes caused elevated biomass, with most pronounced effect at the threshold DOC level. These patterns give support to the suggested dual control by DOC on phytoplankton via nutrient (positively) and light (negatively) availability and imply that the lakes' location along the DOC axis is critical in determining to what extent phytoplankton respond to changes in DOC and/or nutrient loadings. By using data from the large Swedish Lake Monitoring Survey, we further estimated that 80% of northern Swedish lakes are below the DOC threshold, potentially experiencing increased phytoplankton biomass with browning alone, and/or combined with nutrient enrichment. The results support the previous model results on effects of browning and eutrophication on lake phytoplankton, and provide important understanding of how northern lakes may respond to future global changes.