Long-term pattern of alternative stable states in two shallow eutrophic lakes



  • 1 Lake Tåkern and Lake Krankesjön, two moderately eutrophic, shallow lakes in southern Sweden, have during the past few decades shifted several times between a clear-water state with abundant submerged vegetation and a turbid state with high phytoplankton densities.
  • 2 Between 1985 and 1991, Lake Takern was in a clear state, whereas Lake Krankesjon shifted from a turbid to a clear state. During this shift, the area covered by submerged macrophytes expanded, followed by an increase in water transparency, plant-associated macroinvertebrates, and piscivorous fish. Nutrient concentrations, phytoplankton biomass and abundance of planktonic cladocerans decreased.
  • 3 In both lakes, water level fluctuations were the most common factor causing shifts, affecting submerged macrophytes either through changes in light availability or through catastrophic events such as dry-out or mechanical damage by ice movement.
  • 4 Our data give further support for the existence of two alternative stable states in shallow lakes maintained by self-stabilizing feedback mechanisms.