11 Jan 2023
 | 11 Jan 2023

The Influence of Carbon Cycling on Oxygen Depletion in North-Temperate Lakes

Austin Delany, Robert Ladwig, Cal Buelo, Ellen Albright, and Paul C Hanson

Abstract. Hypolimnetic oxygen depletion during summer stratification in lakes can lead to hypoxic and anoxic conditions. Hypolimnetic anoxia is a water quality issue with many consequences, including reduced habitat for cold-water fish species, reduced quality of drinking water, and increased nutrient and organic carbon (OC) release from sediments. Both allochthonous and autochthonous OC loads contribute to oxygen depletion by providing substrate for microbial respiration; however, their relative importance in depleting oxygen across diverse lake systems remains uncertain. Lake characteristics, such as trophic state, hydrology, and morphometry are also influential in carbon cycling processes and may impact oxygen depletion dynamics. To investigate the effects of carbon cycling on hypolimnetic oxygen depletion, we used a two-layer process-based lake model to simulate daily metabolism dynamics for six Wisconsin lakes over twenty years (1995–2014). Physical processes and internal metabolic processes were included in the model and were used to predict dissolved oxygen (DO), particulate OC (POC), and dissolved OC (DOC). In our study of oligotrophic, mesotrophic, and eutrophic lakes, we found autochthony to be far more important than allochthony to hypolimnetic oxygen depletion. Autochthonous POC respiration in the water column contributed the most towards hypolimnetic oxygen depletion in the eutrophic study lakes. POC water column respiration and sediment respiration had similar contributions in the mesotrophic and oligotrophic study lakes. Differences in source of respiration are discussed with consideration of lake productivity, hydrology, and morphometry.

Austin Delany et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-22', Anonymous Referee #1, 13 Mar 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Austin Delany, 10 Jun 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-22', Anonymous Referee #2, 29 Mar 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Austin Delany, 10 Jun 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-22', Anonymous Referee #3, 04 Apr 2023
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Austin Delany, 10 Jun 2023

Austin Delany et al.

Data sets

Modeled Organic Carbon, Dissolved Oxygen, and Secchi for six Wisconsin Lakes, 1995-2014 Austin Delany

Model code and software

Modeled Organic Carbon, Dissolved Oxygen, and Secchi for six Wisconsin Lakes, 1995-2014 Austin Delany

Austin Delany et al.


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Short summary
Internal and external sources of organic carbon (OC) in lakes can contribute to oxygen depletion, but their relative contributions remain in question. To study this, we built a two-layer model to recreate processes relevant to carbon for six Wisconsin lakes. We found that internal OC was more important than external OC in depleting oxygen. This shows that it is important to consider both the fast-paced cycling of internally produced OC and the slower cycling of external OC when studying lakes.