Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 807–816 | Cite as

Modeling dissolved organic carbon in subalpine and alpine lakes with GIS and remote sensing

  • Neil WinnEmail author
  • Craig E. Williamson
  • Robbyn Abbitt
  • Kevin Rose
  • William Renwick
  • Mary Henry
  • Jasmine Saros
Research article


Current global trends in lake dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations suggest a need for tools to more broadly measure and predict variation in DOC at regional landscape scales. This is particularly true for more remote subalpine and alpine regions where access is difficult and the minimal levels of anthropogenic watershed disturbance allow these systems to serve as valuable reference sites for long-term climate change. Here geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing tools are used to develop simple predictive models that define relationships between watershed variables known to influence lake DOC concentrations and lake water color in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and Wyoming, USA. Variables examined include watershed area, topography, and vegetation cover. The resulting GIS model predicts DOC concentrations at the lake watershed scale with a high degree of accuracy (R 2 = 0.92; P ≤ 0.001) by including two variables: vegetation coverage (representing sites of organic carbon fixation) and areas of low slope (0–5%) within the watershed (wetland sites of DOC production). Importantly, this latter variable includes not only surficially visible wetlands, but “cryptic” subsurface wetlands. Modeling with Advanced Land Imager satellite remote sensing data provided a weaker relationship with water color and DOC concentrations (R 2 = 0.725; P ≤ 0.001). Model extrapolation is limited by small sample sizes but these models show promise in predicting lake DOC in subalpine and alpine regions.


Alpine lakes Spatial modeling Land cover mapping Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness 



Funds for this research were provided by Miami University and the National Science Foundation DEB #0734277. We thank Tiffany Tisler along with the field crew from The University of Maine (Misa Saros, Erin Wilcox, Chelsea Lucas, and William Gray) for help with field sampling.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Winn
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Craig E. Williamson
    • 3
  • Robbyn Abbitt
    • 1
  • Kevin Rose
    • 3
  • William Renwick
    • 1
  • Mary Henry
    • 1
  • Jasmine Saros
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of GeographyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  2. 2.Assateague Island National Seashore National Park ServiceBerlinUSA
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  4. 4.Climate Change InstituteThe University of MaineOronoUSA

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