Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 155–169 | Cite as

Lake metabolism scales with lake morphometry and catchment conditions

  • Peter A. Staehr
  • Lars Baastrup-Spohr
  • Kaj Sand-Jensen
  • Colin Stedmon
Research Article


We used a comparative data set for 25 lakes in Denmark sampled during summer to explore the influence of lake morphometry, catchment conditions, light availability and nutrient input on lake metabolism. We found that (1) gross primary production (GPP) and community respiration (R) decline with lake area, water depth and drainage ratio, and increase with algal biomass (Chl), dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total phosphorus (TP); (2) all lakes, especially small with less incident light, and forest lakes with high DOC, have negative net ecosystem production (NEP < 0); (3) daily variability of GPP decreases with lake area and water depth as a consequence of lower input of nutrients and organic matter per unit water volume; (4) the influence of benthic processes on free water metabolic measures declines with increasing lake size; and (5) with increasing lake size, lake metabolism decreases significantly per unit water volume, while depth integrated areal rates remain more constant due to a combination of increased light and nutrient limitation. Overall, these meta-parameters have as many significant but usually weaker relationships to whole-lake and benthic metabolism as have TP, Chl and DOC that are directly linked to photosynthesis and respiration. Combining water depth and Chl to predict GPP, and water depth and DOC to predict R, lead to stronger multiple regression models accounting for 57–63% of the variability of metabolism among the 25 lakes. It is therefore important to consider differences in lake morphometry and catchment conditions when comparing metabolic responses of lakes to human impacts.


Lake metabolism Lake morphometry Catchment conditions Intrinsic drivers Temporal variability 



This project was funded by a Steno grant from the Danish Natural Science Research Council to Peter Staehr and received support from the Danish Centre for Lake Restoration (CLEAR). We are grateful for helpful comments to improve the manuscript from people in the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON).


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter A. Staehr
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lars Baastrup-Spohr
    • 2
  • Kaj Sand-Jensen
    • 2
  • Colin Stedmon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine Ecology, National Environmental Research InstituteAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.Freshwater Biological SectionUniversity of CopenhagenHillerødDenmark

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