Vertical mixing as a determinant of trophic status in deep lakes: a case study from two lakes south of the Alps (Lake Garda and Lake Iseo)
AbstractThe identification of the factors and mechanisms determining a particular lake’s typology is crucial for the correct interpretation of trophic evolution. Nutrient concentrations are not the only properties which determine the trophic characteristics of lakes; others, such as morphometry, hydrology and climatic conditions, also have a major influence on the development of algal biomass and species composition. Large, deep lakes belong to a well defined typology. Their trophic status depends not only on algal nutrient loads, but also on the extent of the spring vertical mixing and renewal time. These factors are closely interrelated, for the actual renewal time approaches the theoretical renewal time only during the complete overturn. This paper compares the influence of different circulation patterns on the trophic status of two deep subalpine lakes with contrasting mixing characteristics. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy (S=368 km2, V=49 km3, Zmax=350 m). It is characterised by irregular circulation events (oligomixis); during the 1990s, complete homogenisation of the water column occurred in 1991 and 1999-2000. The years between these episodes showed an increase of hypolimnetic temperatures and a progressive vertical stratification of nutrients. Full overturn episodes were characterised by a sudden decrease of temperature and complete homogenisation of the chemical and physical variables along the water column, with a corresponding increase of nutrients and algal biomasses at the surface. In contrast, the last mixing involving the deepest waters in Lake Iseo (S= 60,9 km2, V=7,6 km3, Zmax=251 m) occurred at the beginning of the 1980s, after which the reduced water renewal and the high trophic level resulted in a marked decrease in oxygen concentrations and in the establishment of conditions of anoxia during the 1990s. At present the lake is meromictic. In 1999 and 2000, when a complete overturn was observed in lakes Maggiore and Como as well as in Lake Garda, Lake Iseo experienced a spring mixing which was still limited, but able to determine an increase in the algal biomass.
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