Autotrophic response to lake age, conductivity and temperature in two West Greenland lakes

S. McGowan (Corresponding author), R.K. Juhler, N.J. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Predicted changes in future climate necessitate a better understanding of climate impacts on lake biota, and the role of within-lake processes in modifying biotic response. Therefore we examined two climate-related variables (lake-water conductivity and GRIP temperatures) and lake ontogeny (lake age), to determine their influence on lake autotrophic communities in two neighbouring closed-basin lakes from West Greenland spanning the past 8,000 years. Using sedimentary pigments as proxies for lake autotrophic communities, we used synchrony and variance partitioning analyses (VPA) to test three specific hypotheses (a) that lake primary production would increase with lake age, (b) that climate would be the dominant process controlling autotrophic communities in these pristine lakes and (c) that the response of autotrophs to conductivity and temperature would vary depending upon the age of the lake. The results supported our first hypothesis, showing that lakes changed significantly with age, exhibiting an increase and decline in production in the first millennium of their existence, followed by a steady increase in production and increasingly frequent abrupt switches between mixed and meromictic states. The highly synchronous detrended response (r = 0.769) of lake autotrophs in the two study lakes, supported our hypothesis that climate was the dominant factor controlling lake autotrophs. However, VPA revealed that our climate-related variables (temperature and conductivity) explained only small amounts of variance alone (50% variance explained) and with each other (>28% variance explained), such that autotrophic response changed as lakes aged. In spite of this, lakes sometimes responded independently, as a result of differences in the relative proportion of benthic to pelagic production and because of differences in lake morphometry. Together these results show that long-term control of lake autotrophs by climate and lake age is modified on shorter timescales by non-linear responses related to within-lake processes, and by the interaction of different climate variables with each other and with lake age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-317
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Algae
  • Arctic
  • Climate
  • Ecosystem state change
  • Greenland
  • HPLC
  • Meromixis
  • Ontogeny
  • Saline lakes
  • Sedimentary pigments


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