Effects of upstream hydropower operation and oligotrophication on the light regime of a turbid peri-alpine lake
Anthropogenic activities in catchments can alter the light regimes in downstream natural waters, affecting light attenuation and the perceived optical properties of the waters. We analyzed the effects of upstream hydropower operation and oligotrophication on light attenuation and reflectance in Lake Brienz (Switzerland). For this purpose, we reconstructed its light regime for the pre-dam condition and for periods of 4-fold increased primary productivity, based on direct observations of light and beam attenuation as well as concentrations of optically active compounds, especially observed and simulated mineral particle concentrations. Based on our assessment, light attenuation before the construction of upstream dams was double the current value during summer and nearly half in winter. This result is consistent with pre-dam measurements of Secchi depths in the early 1920s. Using a simple optical model, a significant increase in reflectance since the 1970s was estimated, assuming a 4-fold decrease of optical active organic compounds within the lake. As reflectance is perceived by human eyes as turbidity, this may explain subjective reports by local residents of increasing turbidity in recent years.