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Seasonal variability in lakes’ environmental processes reveal susceptibility to climate change


Lake Geneva. Credit: Hugo Ulloa A new study has shown how climate change could impact the ecosystems of the planet’s largest lakes by revealing varying levels at which their water layers are mixed together through the seasons. As the climates warm, changes to the this process in the winter months could affect oxygen levels and other vital natural environmental systems.

Mixing, caused by natural turbulence of deep water bodies, controls the movement of heat, oxygen, nutrients and pollutants between different layers and therefore plays a major role in shaping how ecosystems adapt to environmental forces. In lakes and other inland waterbodies, where tidal currents are weak, the energy required for mixing is supplied by wind blowing at the surface, which energizes currents within the waterbody.

For this new study, an international study team used the 100-square-meter research platform LéXPLORE, floating in Lake Geneva, to continuously measure wind speed, lake current velocities and temperature, in the interior of the water body and near the sediment, for an entire seasonal cycle.

The findings, publishing the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment , showed that the energy pathways are controlled by seasonality though changes in the intensity of winds and different layers of density within […]

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