US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
Ultraviolet radiation in North American lakes: attenuation estimates from DOC measurements and implications for plankton communities
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Climate warming in North America is likely to be accompanied by changes in other environmental stresses such as UV-B radiation. We apply an empirical model to available DOC (dissolved organic C) data to estimate the depths to which 1\% of surface UV-B and UV-A radiation penetrate for several major regions of North America. UV attenuation depths are also estimated from DOC data collected from treatment and reference basins during the experimental acidification of Little Rock Lake, Wisconsin. In some regions of North America 25\% of the lakes have 1\% attenuation depths for UV-B radiation on the order of 4 m or more (western and northwestern U.S., Newfoundland). In other regions, 75\% of the lakes have 1\% attenuation depths for UV-B shallower than 0.5 m (Florida, upper midwestern U.S., northwestern Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia). Attenuation depths for UV-A radiation are ∼2.5 times as deep as those for UV-B. Experimental acidification approximately doubled the estimated 1\% attenuation depths for UV radiation in Little Rock Lake. The strong dependence of 1\% attenuation depth on DOC below the 1–2 mg liter-1 DOC range suggests that UV attenuation in low DOC lakes is highly sensitive to even very small changes in DOC. We conclude that changes in climate, lake hydrology, acid deposition, and other environmental factors that alter DOC concentrations in lakes may be more important than stratospheric ozone depletion in controlling future UV environments in lakes.