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Love Handles in Aquatic Ecosystems: The Role of Dissolved Organic Carbon Drawdown, Resuspended Sediments, and Terrigenous Inputs in the Carbon Balance of Lake Michigan

Abstract

During the unstratified (winter) and stratified (summer) periods of 1999 and 2000, we examined carbon (C) dynamics in the upper water column of southern Lake Michigan. We found that (a) bacterial respiration (BR) and planktonic respiration (PR) were major sinks for C, (b) C flux through bacteria (CFTB) was diminished in winter because of reduced bacterial production (BP) and increased bacterial growth efficiency (BGE) at colder temperatures, and (c) PR exceeded primary production (PP) during the spring–summer transition. Drawdown of dissolved organic C (DOC), resuspended organic matter from the lake floor, and riverine organic matter likely provided organic C to compensate for this temporal deficit. DOC in the water column decreased between winter and summer (29–91 mg C m2 d−1) and accounted for 20%–53% of CFTB and 11%–33% of PR. Sediment resuspension events supported elevated winter heterotrophy in the years that they occurred with greatest intensities (1998 and 2000) and may be important to interannual variability in C dynamics. Further, riverine discharge, containing elevated DOC (5×) and dissolved P (10×) relative to lake water, peaked in the winter–spring season in southern Lake Michigan. Collectively, terrigenous inputs (river, stream, and groundwater discharges; storm water runoff; and atmospheric precipitation) may support approximately 10%–20% of annual in-lake heterotrophy as well as autotrophy. Terrestrial subsidies likely play a key role in the C balance of even very large lakes, representing a critical linkage between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

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Received 11 June 2001; Accepted 14 December 2001.

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Biddanda, B., Cotner, J. Love Handles in Aquatic Ecosystems: The Role of Dissolved Organic Carbon Drawdown, Resuspended Sediments, and Terrigenous Inputs in the Carbon Balance of Lake Michigan. Ecosystems 5, 431–445 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-002-0163-z

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  • Key words: land–lake linkages; carbon balance; respiration; bacterial growth efficiency; dissolved organic carbon; sediment resuspension; terrigenous matter; southern Lake Michigan.