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Lake ecosystems are often defined in terms of a trophic paradigm, in which lake productivity is considered a direct function of nutrient loading. This paradigm has been modified to include the role of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in regulating this process, based on the effects of this material in forest-dominated aquatic ecosystems. However, the role of DOM in lakes situated in other types of ecosystems, such as grasslands, is presently unclear. Grasslands and converted grasslands (i.e. agricultural land) cover extensive areas in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Lakes situated in grasslands are usually saline or sub-saline and have high concentrations of uncolored DOM. Due to the different nature of DOM in prairie lakes, the role of this material in these systems may be quite different from that in forest dominated aquatic ecosystems, and here we investigated the role that DOM plays in regulating primary production in prairie saline lakes via its effect on nutrient dynamics.