US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
The influence of landscape position on lakes in northern Wisconsin
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1. Using data from the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research site in northern Wisconsin, we present a series of examples illustrating how landscape setting can influence the static and dynamic aspects of many physical, chemical and biological properties of lakes. 2. One important landscape attribute is the hydrologic position of a lake within the regional flow regime. Lake position determines the relative importance of groundwater and precipitation input to a lake, with lakes high in the landscape receiving a greater proportion of their input waters from precipitation than lakes lower in the landscape. Landscape position is strongly correlated with the concentration of base cations such as calcium and magnesium. 3. Landscape position also influences how lakes respond to drought conditions. Lakes high in the landscape responded to a 4-year drought with decreases in calcium mass, whereas lakes low in the landscape increased in mass of calcium. During extended dry conditions, these differential responses of lakes suggest that lakes already low in calcium (i.e. in a high position in the flow system) will have further reductions in calcium concentrations. These reductions could decrease the number of lakes offering suitable habitat for organisms such as crayfish and snails whose distributions are limited by calcium. 4. Landscape position also affects silica concentrations in lakes, with lakes low in the landscape having silica concentrations up to three orders of magnitude greater than lakes high in the landscape. Differences in silica concentration affect robustness of freshwater sponge spicules which can potentially alter some aspects of the dynamics of littoral zone food webs. 5. Landscape position can influence the vertical distribution of primary production. Concentrations of dissolved organic carbon are affected by landscape setting and can influence vertical light penetration, thus affecting the depth at which primary production can occur. 6. Lake area and fish species richness are correlated with landscape position: larger, species-rich lakes are low in the landscape, whereas smaller lakes with fewer species tend to be high in the landscape. 7. By taking a landscape-scale view, in addition to the more usual lake-specific view, it is possible to reach a more robust understanding of lake dynamics and avoid some of the problems associated with extrapolating from single lake results.