Temporal scales of water-level fluctuations in lakes and their ecological implications

  • Hilmar Hofmann
  • Andreas Lorke
  • Frank Peeters
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 204)


Water-level fluctuations (WLF) of lakes have temporal scales ranging from seconds to hundreds of years. Fluctuations in the lake level generated by an unbalanced water budget resulting from meteorological and hydrological processes, such as precipitation, evaporation and inflow and outflow conditions usually have long temporal scales (days to years) and are here classified as long-term WLF. In contrast, WLF generated by hydrodynamic processes, e.g. basin-scale oscillations and travelling surface waves, have periods in the order of seconds to hours and are classified as short-term WLF. The impact of WLF on abiotic and biotic conditions depends on the temporal scale under consideration and is exemplified using data from Lake Issyk-Kul, the Caspian Sea and Lake Constance. Long-term WLF induce a slow shore line displacement of metres to kilometres, but immediate physical stress due to currents associated with long-term WLF is negligible. Large-scale shore line displacements change the habitat availability for organisms adapted to terrestrial and aquatic conditions over long time scales. Short-term WLF, in contrast, do not significantly displace the boundary between the aquatic and the terrestrial habitat, but impose short-term physical stress on organisms living in the littoral zone and on organic and inorganic particles deposited in the top sediment layers. The interaction of WLF acting on different time scales amplifies their overall impact on the ecosystem, because long-term WLF change the habitat exposed to the physical stress resulting from short-term WLF. Specifically, shore morphology and sediment grain size distribution are the result of a continuous interplay between short- and long-term WLF, the former providing the energy for erosion the latter determining the section of the shore exposed to the erosive power.


Water-level fluctuation Waves Remobilisation of particles Shore formation Habitat conditions Littoral zone 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilmar Hofmann
    • 1
  • Andreas Lorke
    • 1
  • Frank Peeters
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Physics, Limnological InstituteUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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