, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 1295–1307 | Cite as

Carbon Dioxide in Boreal Surface Waters: A Comparison of Lakes and Streams

  • Gesa A. WeyhenmeyerEmail author
  • Pirkko Kortelainen
  • Sebastian Sobek
  • Roger Müller
  • Miitta Rantakari


The quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from inland waters into the atmosphere varies, depending on spatial and temporal variations in the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in waters. Using 22,664 water samples from 851 boreal lakes and 64 boreal streams, taken from different water depths and during different months we found large spatial and temporal variations in pCO2, ranging from below atmospheric equilibrium to values greater than 20,000 μatm with a median value of 1048 μatm for lakes (n = 11,538 samples) and 1176 μatm for streams (n = 11,126). During the spring water mixing period in April/May, distributions of pCO2 were not significantly different between stream and lake ecosystems (P > 0.05), suggesting that pCO2 in spring is determined by processes that are common to lakes and streams. During other seasons of the year, however, pCO2 differed significantly between lake and stream ecosystems (P < 0.0001). The variable that best explained the differences in seasonal pCO2 variations between lakes and streams was the temperature difference between bottom and surface waters. Even small temperature differences resulted in a decline of pCO2 in lake surface waters. Minimum pCO2 values in lake surface waters were reached in July. Towards autumn pCO2 strongly increased again in lake surface waters reaching values close to the ones found in stream surface waters. Although pCO2 strongly increased in the upper water column towards autumn, pCO2 in lake bottom waters still exceeded the pCO2 in surface waters of lakes and streams. We conclude that throughout the year CO2 is concentrated in bottom waters of boreal lakes, although these lakes are typically shallow with short water retention times. Highly varying amounts of this CO2 reaches surface waters and evades to the atmosphere. Our findings have important implications for up-scaling CO2 fluxes from single lake and stream measurements to regional and global annual fluxes.


carbon CO2 climate seasonality boreal lake stream 



G.A.W. is a research fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences supported by a grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Funding for this study was also received by the Nordic Centre of Excellence “CRAICC - Cryosphere-atmosphere interactions in a changing arctic climate” supported by NordForsk, the Swedish Research Council (621-2009-2711) and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (214-2009-272 and the Strong Research Environment “CoW - Color of Water”). Many thanks go to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the IVM laboratory for financing, sampling, and analyzing thousands of water samples. We are also grateful to the very constructive comments of two reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gesa A. Weyhenmeyer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Pirkko Kortelainen
    • 3
  • Sebastian Sobek
    • 1
  • Roger Müller
    • 1
  • Miitta Rantakari
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Genetics/LimnologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of AgricultureUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Finnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Finnish Forest Research InstituteVantaaFinland

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