Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 97–115 | Cite as

Contrasting responses of dimictic and polymictic lakes to environmental change: a spatial and temporal study

  • Zofia Ecaterina Taranu
  • Dörte Köster
  • Roland I. Hall
  • Theo Charette
  • Francine Forrest
  • Les C. Cwynar
  • Irene Gregory-Eaves
Research Article


Although comparative analyses between dimictic and polymictic lakes have noted the key role of mixing regime in governing water quality, limnologists have historically focused on dimictic lakes, leaving polymictic lakes relatively understudied. In this study, we investigated whether the effects of agricultural development on water quality differed between dimictic and polymictic lakes in a naturally nutrient-rich region of Alberta, Canada. Through a spatial limnological analysis of 36 sites, we found that the relationship between surface water total phosphorus concentration and the percent of agriculture (% Agr) in the catchments differed between dimictic and polymictic lakes, where the proportion of variance explained was much more pronounced in the dimictic (79% explained) than in the polymictic systems (7% explained). Paleolimnological analyses of subfossil chironomids in surface sediment samples (0–1 cm) from 18 of the 36 study lakes, and in sediment core profiles from the dimictic and polymictic basins of a eutrophic lake, showed that water quality differed between mixis groups. We found that the surface sediment chironomid assemblages differed significantly between polymictic and dimictic lakes. Detailed analyses of the sediment cores demonstrated that the two basin types differed in their responses to land-use change through time, as only the dimictic basin showed a parallel increase in anoxia with increasing agricultural development. We suggest that in naturally-fertile landscapes, external nutrient loading exerts a more notable effect on dimictic lakes, whereas internal nutrient loading is more important in polymictic systems.


Eutrophication Chironomid Agriculture Mixis Anoxia 



We would like to thank Joshua Kurek for training in chironomid taxonomy. Joanna Hobbins for providing help with the use of Geological Information Systems (GIS). Megan McLean, Amanda Krowski, Mike Bylik, Alberta Environment (AENV) and Alberta Lake Management Society (ALMS) for fieldwork assistance. Elena Bennett, Bronwyn Keatley, Brian Leung, Jesse Vermaire, Émilie Saulnier-Talbot, Dan Selbie, and Guangjie Chen for manuscript revisions. Erika Brown for reference revisions. Lauren McGruthers for her help with chironomid sub-sampling. Funding for this research came from the Lakeland Industry and Community Association of Alberta (LICA), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and McGill University.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zofia Ecaterina Taranu
    • 1
  • Dörte Köster
    • 3
  • Roland I. Hall
    • 2
  • Theo Charette
    • 4
  • Francine Forrest
    • 5
  • Les C. Cwynar
    • 6
  • Irene Gregory-Eaves
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.Gartner Lee LimitedBracebridgeCanada
  4. 4.Cumulative Environmental Management AssociationEdmontonCanada
  5. 5.Worley Parsons KomexEdmontonCanada
  6. 6.Department of BiologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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