Infoscience

Journal article

Sensitivity of ancient Lake Ohrid to local anthropogenic impacts and global warming

Human impacts on the few ancient lakes of the world must be assessed, as any change can lead to an irreversible loss of endemic communities. In such an assessment, the sensitivity of Lake Ohrid (Macedonia/Albania; surface area A = 358 km(2), volume V = 55 km(3), > 200 endemic species) to three major human impacts-water abstraction, eutrophication, and global warming-is evaluated. It is shown that ongoing eutrophication presents the major threat to this unique lake system, even under the conservative assumption of an increase in phosphorus (P) concentration from the current 4.5 to a potential future 9 mg P m(-3). Eutrophication would lead to a significant reduction in light penetration, which is a prerequisite for endemic, deep living plankton communities. Moreover, a P increase to 9 mg P m(-3) would create deep water anoxia through elevated oxygen consumption and increase in the water column stability due to more mineralization of organic material. Such anoxic conditions would severely threaten the endemic bottom fauna. The trend toward anoxia is further amplified by the predicted global warming of 0.04 degrees C yr(-1), which significantly reduces the frequency of complete seasonal deep convective mixing compared to the current warming of 0.006 degrees C yr(-1). This reduction in deep water exchange is triggered by the warming process rather than by overall higher temperatures in the lake. In contrast, deep convective mixing would be even more frequent than today under a higher temperature equilibrium, as a result of the temperature dependence of the thermal expansivity of water. Although water abstraction may change local habitats, e.g., karst spring areas, its effects on overall lake properties was shown to be of minor importance.

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