Polar Biology

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 363-370

First online:

Temporal patterns of primary production in a large ultra-oligotrophic Antarctic freshwater lake

  • Peter BaylissAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, UK and Institute of Environmental and Biological Sciences, University of Lancaster, LAY 4YQ, UK
  • , J. Cynan Ellis-EvansAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 OET, UK
  • , Johanna Laybourn-ParryAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology and Environmental Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK

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A large ultra-oligotrophic Antarctic freshwater lake, Crooked Lake, was investigated between January 1993 and November 1993. The water column supported a small phytoplankton community limited by temperature, nutrient availability and, seasonally, by low photosynthetically active radiation. Chlorophyll a concentrations were consistently low (<1 g l−1) and showed no obvious seasonal patterns. Production rates were low, ranging from non-detectable to 0.56 g C l−1 h−1, with highest rates generally occurring towards the end of the austral winter and in spring. The pattern of carbon fixation indicated that the phytoplankton was adapted to low light levels. Chlorophyll a specific photosynthetic rates (assimilation numbers) ranged from non-detectable to 1.27 gC (g chlorophyll a)−1 h−1. Partitioning of photosynthetic products revealed carbon incorporation principally into storage products such as lipids at high light fluxes with increasing protein synthesis at depth. With little allochthonous input the data suggest that lake dynamics in this Antarctic system are driven by phytoplankton activity.