Long-term changes in oxygen depletion in a small temperate lake: effects of climate change and eutrophication


Brian Foley, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland.
E-mail: foley-b1@email.ulster.ac.uk


1. We analysed 41 years of data (1968–2008) from Blelham Tarn, U.K., to determine the consequences of eutrophication and climate warming on hypolimnetic dissolved oxygen (DO).

2. The establishment of thermal stratification was strongly related to the onset of DO depletion in the lower hypolimnion. As a result of a progressively earlier onset of stratification and later overturn, the duration of stratification increased by 38 ± 8 days over the 41 years.

3. The observed rate of volumetric hypolimnetic oxygen depletion (VHODobs) ranged from 0.131 to 0.252 g O2 m−3 per day and decreased significantly over the study period, despite the increase in the mean chlorophyll a (Chl a) concentration in the growing season. The vertical transport of DO represented from 0 to 30% of VHODobs, while adjustments for interannual differences in hypolimnetic temperature were less important, ranging from −11 to 9% of VHODobs.

4. The mean wind speed during May made the strongest significant contribution to the variation in VHODobs. VHODobs adjusted for the vertical transport of DO and hypolimnetic temperature differences, VHODadj, was significantly related to the upper mixed layer Chl a concentration during spring.

5. Hypolimnetic anoxia (HA) ranged from 27 to 168 days per year and increased significantly over time, which undoubtedly had negative ecological consequences for the lake.

6. In similar small temperate lakes, the negative effects of eutrophication on hypolimnetic DO are likely to be exacerbated by changes in lake thermal structure brought about by a warming climate, which may undermine management efforts to alleviate the effects of anthropogenic eutrophication.