Carbon Dioxide Supersaturation in Lakes – Causes, Consequences and Sensitivity to Climate Change

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The global carbon cycle is intimately linked with the earth’s climate system. Knowledge about carbon cycling in the biosphere is therefore crucial for predictions of climate change. This thesis investigates the carbon dioxide balance of Swedish boreal lakes, its regulation, significance to the carbon budget of the boreal landscape, and sensitivity to climate change.Swedish boreal lakes were almost exclusively supersaturated in CO2 with respect to the atmosphere, resulting in an emission of CO2 from lakes to the atmosphere. Lake pCO2 was closely related to the concentration of terrigenous dissolved organic carbon (DOC), indicating that the utilization of terrigenous DOC by lake bacteria is a major source of CO2. This conclusion is supported by independent field studies, showing that net plankton respiration accounts for most of the CO2 emitted from Swedish boreal lakes, while photochemical mineralization and sediment respiration were less important.Mineralization of terrigenous DOC and subsequent emission of CO2 from lakes to the atmosphere was a major carbon loss factor in 21 major Swedish boreal catchments, removing 30-80% of the organic carbon exported from terrestrial soils to surface waters. Lake CO2 emission is in the same order of magnitude as organic carbon accumulation in boreal forest soils, and should therefore be included in the carbon budget of the boreal landscape.In a set of nearly 5000 global lakes, DOC concentration was a much more important regulator of lake pCO2 than temperature. Climate change will therefore affect the carbon balance of lakes primarily via alterations in terrestrial DOC export, rather than via changes in temperature per se. Both current observations and models of future climate suggest an increasing export of terrigenous DOC from many Scandinavian catchments. Hence, there probably is a current trend towards higher CO2 emission from Swedish boreal lakes, which is likely to continue in the future.

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