Get access

Sediment respiration and lake trophic state are important predictors of large CO2 evasion from small boreal lakes


Pirkko Kortelainen, fax +358 9 40 300 390, e-mail:


We show that sediment respiration is one of the key factors contributing to the high CO2 supersaturation in and evasion from Finnish lakes, and evidently also over large areas in the boreal landscape, where the majority of the lakes are small and shallow. A subpopulation of 177 randomly selected lakes (<100 km2) and 32 lakes with the highest total phosphorus (Ptot) concentrations in the Nordic Lake Survey (NLS) data base were sampled during four seasons and at four depths. Patterns of CO2 concentrations plotted against depth and time demonstrate strong CO2 accumulation in hypolimnetic waters during the stratification periods. The relationship between O2 departure from the saturation and CO2 departure from the saturation was strong in the entire data set (r2=0.79, n=2 740, P<0.0001). CO2 concentrations were positively associated with lake trophic state and the proportion of agricultural land in the catchment. In contrast, CO2 concentrations negatively correlated with the peatland percentage indicating that either input of easily degraded organic matter and/or nutrient load from agricultural land enhance degradation. The average lake-area-weighted annual CO2 evasion based on our 177 randomly selected lakes and all Finnish lakes >100 km2 (Rantakari & Kortelainen, 2005) was 42 g C m−2 LA (lake area), approximately 20% of the average annual C accumulation in Finnish forest soils and tree biomass (covering 51% of the total area of Finland) in the 1990s. Extrapolating our estimate from Finland to all lakes of the boreal region suggests a total annual CO2 evasion of about 50 TgC, a value upto 40% of current estimates for lakes of the entire globe, emphasizing the role of small boreal lakes as conduits for transferring terrestrially fixed C into the atmosphere.