, Volume 614, Issue 1, pp 243–257 | Cite as

Epipelic and pelagic primary production in Alaskan Arctic lakes of varying depth

  • Stephen C. Whalen
  • Brian A. Chalfant
  • Eric N. Fischer
Primary research paper


We compared on eight dates during the ice-free period physicochemical properties and rates of phytoplankton and epipelic primary production in six arctic lakes dominated by soft bottom substrate. Lakes were classified as shallow (\( \overline {\text{z}} \) < 2.5 m), intermediate in depth (2.5 m < \( \overline {\text{z}} \) < 4.5 m), and deep (\( \overline {\text{z}} \) > 4.5 m), with each depth category represented by two lakes. Although shallow lakes circulated freely and intermediate and deep lakes stratified thermally for the entire summer, dissolved oxygen concentrations were always >70% of saturation values. Soluble reactive phosphorus and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN = NO3 –N + NH4 +–N) were consistently below the detection limit (0.05 μmol l−1) in five lakes. However, one lake shallow lake (GTH 99) periodically showed elevated values of DIN (17 μmol l−1), total-P (0.29 μmol l−1), and total-N (33 μmol l−1), suggesting wind-generated sediment resuspension. Due to increased nutrient availability or entrainment of microphytobenthos, GTH 99 showed the highest average volume-based values of phytoplankton chlorophyll a (chl a) and primary production, which for the six lakes ranged from 1.0 to 2.9 μg l−1 and 0.7–3.8 μmol C l−1 day−1. Overall, however, increased \( \overline {\text{z}} \) resulted in increased area-based values of phytoplankton chl a and primary production, with mean values for the three lake classes ranging from 3.6 to 6.1 mg chl a m−2 and 3.2–5.8 mmol C m−2 day−1. Average values of epipelic chl a ranged from 131 to 549 mg m−2 for the three depth classes, but levels were not significantly different due to high spatial variability. However, average epipelic primary production was significantly higher in shallow lakes (12.2 mmol C m−2 day−1) than in intermediate and deep lakes (3.4 and 2.4 mmol C m−2 day−1). Total primary production (6.7–15.4 mmol C m−2 day−1) and percent contribution of the epipelon (31–66%) were inversely related to mean depth, such that values for both variables were significantly higher in shallow lakes than in intermediate or deep lakes.


Primary production Phytoplankton Epipelic Arctic 



This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant NSF/DEB-0090202. We thank John Bonde (University of Minnesota—Duluth) for mapping lake bathymetry. Jeremiah Shackelford and Jason Hales provided field assistance, while Prasad Pathak generously constructed the location map.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen C. Whalen
    • 1
  • Brian A. Chalfant
    • 1
  • Eric N. Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, CB #7431University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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