, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1000–1014 | Cite as

The Influence of Hydrologic Residence Time on Lake Carbon Cycling Dynamics Following Extreme Precipitation Events

  • Jacob A. Zwart
  • Stephen D. Sebestyen
  • Christopher T. Solomon
  • Stuart E. Jones


The frequency and magnitude of extreme events are expected to increase in the future, yet little is known about effects of such events on ecosystem structure and function. We examined how extreme precipitation events affect exports of terrestrial dissolved organic carbon (t-DOC) from watersheds to lakes as well as in-lake heterotrophy in three north-temperate lakes. Extreme precipitation events induced large influxes of t-DOC to our lakes, accounting for 45–58% of the seasonal t-DOC load. These large influxes of t-DOC influenced lake metabolism, resulting in lake net heterotrophy following 67% of the extreme precipitation events across all lakes. Hydrologic residence time (HRT) was negatively related to t-DOC load and heterotrophy; lakes with short HRT had higher t-DOC loads and greater net heterotrophy. The fraction of t-DOC mineralized within each lake following extreme precipitation events generally exhibited a positive relationship with lake HRT, similar to the previous studies of fractions mineralized at annual and supra-annual time scales. Event-associated turnover rate of t-DOC was higher than what is typically reported from laboratory studies and modeling exercises and was also negatively related to lake HRT. This study demonstrates that extreme precipitation events are ‘hot moments’ of carbon load, export, and turnover in lakes and that lake-specific characteristics (for example, HRT) interact with climatic patterns to set rates of important lake carbon fluxes.


lake heterotrophy hydrology lake metabolism carbon cycling hydrologic residence time synchrony extreme precipitation events 



We thank the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center for hosting our study. The chemical analyses were conducted at the Center for Environmental Science and Technology at University of Notre Dame. Technical assistance was provided by J. J. Coloso, A. Searle, K. Roberts, L. Raaf, E. Golebie, B. Conner, S. McCarthy, E. Mather, S. Elser, C. J. Humes, J. Lerner, and M. F. Ebenezer. Discussions with M.M. Dee and comments from J. F. Lapierre and one anonymous reviewer significantly improved the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under NSF DGE-1313583 to JAZ and NSF award DEB-1547866 to SEJ.

Supplementary material

10021_2016_88_MOESM1_ESM.docx (88 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 88 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob A. Zwart
    • 1
  • Stephen D. Sebestyen
    • 2
  • Christopher T. Solomon
    • 3
  • Stuart E. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.United States Department of Agriculture Forest ServiceNorthern Research StationGrand RapidsUSA
  3. 3.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA

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