, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 535-545
Date: 14 May 2013

Water renewal along the aquatic continuum offsets cumulative retention by lakes: implications for the character of organic carbon in boreal lakes

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Abstract

The character of organic carbon (OC) in lake waters is strongly dependent on the time water has spent in the landscape as well as in the lake itself due to continuous biogeochemical OC transformation processes. A common view is that upstream lakes might prolong the water retention in the landscape, resulting in an altered OC character downstream. We calculated the number of lakes upstream for 24,742 Swedish lakes in seven river basins spanning from 56º to 68º N. For each of these lakes, we used a lake volume to discharge comparison on a landscape scale to account for upstream water retention by lakes (Tn tot). We found a surprisingly weak relationship between the number of lakes upstream and Tn tot. Accordingly, we found that the coloured fraction of organic carbon was not related to lake landscape position but significantly related to Tn tot when we analysed lake water chemical data from 1,559 lakes in the studied river basins. Thus, we conclude that water renewal along the aquatic continuum by lateral water inputs offsets cumulative retention by lakes. Based on our findings, we suggest integrating Tn tot in studies that address lake landscape position in the boreal zone to better understand variations in the character of organic carbon across lake districts.