Ecology Letters (2012)
A majority of the world’s lakes are supersaturated with respect to carbon dioxide (CO2). By experimental manipulation of the CO2 concentration in supersaturated boreal lakes, we demonstrate that phytoplankton primary production was up to 10 times higher in supersaturated lake water in comparison with water with CO2 at equilibrium concentrations and that CO2, together with nutrients, explained most of the variation in pelagic primary production and phytoplankton biomass over a wide variety of unproductive lakes. These results suggest that phytoplankton can be co-limited by CO2 and nutrients in unproductive lakes. As import of terrestrial organic carbon and its subsequent microbial mineralisation in lakes is a driving force of CO2-supersaturation our results suggest that lake productivity and carbon cycling may respond to variations in terrestrial organic carbon export, (e.g. caused by land use or climate change) in ways not described before.