Spatial Variation among Lakes within Landscapes: Ecological Organization along Lake Chains
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Although limnologists have long been interested in regional patterns in lake attributes, only recently have they considered lakes connected and organized across the landscape, rather than as spatially independent entities. Here we explore the spatial organization of lake districts through the concept of landscape position, a concept that considers lakes longitudinally along gradients of geomorphology and hydrology. We analyzed long-term chemical and biological data from nine lake chains (lakes in a series connected through surface or groundwater flow) from seven lake districts of diverse hydrologic and geomorphic settings across North America. Spatial patterns in lake variables driven by landscape position were surprisingly common across lake districts and across a wide range of variables. On the other hand, temporal patterns of lake variables, quantified using synchrony, the degree to which pairs of lakes exhibit similar dynamics through time, related to landscape position only for lake chains with lake water residence times that spanned a wide range and were generally long (close to or greater than 1 year). Highest synchrony of lakes within a lake chain occurred when lakes had short water residence times. Our results from both the spatial and temporal analyses suggest that certain features of the landscape position concept are robust enough to span a wide range of seemingly disparate lake types. The strong spatial patterns observed in this analysis, and some unexplained patterns, suggest the need to further study these scales and to continue to view lake ecosystems spatially, longitudinally, and broadly across the landscape.
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