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The significance of Chara vegetation in the precipitation of lacustrine calcium carbonate



A significant portion of calcium carbonate is deposited in lake sediments as a result of biological processes related to the photosynthetic activity of phytoplankton in the pelagic realm and, in addition, macrophytes in the littoral zone. Lake Wigry, one of the largest lakes in Poland (north-east Poland), is characterized by: (i) carbonate sediments with a CaCO3 content exceeding 80% within the littoral zone; and (ii) large areas of submerged vegetation dominated by charophytes (macroscopic green algae, Characeae family). It is claimed that charophytes are highly effective in utilizing HCO3 and forming thick CaCO3 encrustations. Thus, this study was aimed at evaluating the CaCO3 production by dense Chara stands overgrowing the lake bottom reaching a depth of 4 m. In late July 2009, the fresh and dry mass of plants, the percentage contribution of calcium carbonate and the production of CaCO3 per 1 m2 were investigated along three transects at three depths (1 m, 2 m and 3 m, with each sample area equal to 0·0625 m2) per transect. The composition and structure of phytoplankton and the physico-chemical properties of the water analysed in both the littoral and pelagic zones served as the environmental background and demonstrated moderately low fertility in the lake. The greatest dry plant mass exceeded 1000 g m−2 and CaCO3 encrustations constituted from 59% to over 76% of the charophyte dry weight. Thus, the maximum and average values of carbonates precipitated by charophytes were 685·5 and 438 g m−2, respectively, which exceeded previously reported results. A correlation of carbonate production with the depth of Chara stands was detected, and intermediate depths offered the most favourable conditions for carbonate precipitation (589 g m−2 on average). As precipitated carbonates are ultimately stored in bottom deposits, the results highlight the significance of charophytes in lacustrine CaCO3 sedimentation.