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Research article2024Peer reviewed

Responses by benthic invertebrate community composition to dissolved organic matter in lakes decline substantially above a threshold concentration

Jane, Stephen F.; Johnson, Richard K.; Rose, Kevin C.; Eklov, Peter; Weyhenmeyer, Gesa A.


Dissolved organic matter (DOM), often measured as dissolved organic carbon (DOC), plays a fundamental role in influencing the structure and function of lake ecosystems. Due to the myriad ecosystem effects of DOM, widespread observations of long-term increasing DOM concentrations have received much attention from ecologists. DOM positively influences primary production and consumer production at low concentrations due to the fertilising influence of bound nutrients. However, beyond a unimodal peak in production, a reduced light environment may result in a negative effect on production. This unimodal model has been largely developed and tested in lakes with low to moderate DOM concentrations (i.e., typically <= 10 mg/L DOC).To understand ecological responses in lakes across a larger range in DOM concentrations, we examined the response of benthic invertebrate communities in 148 Swedish lakes with DOM concentrations ranging between 0.67 and 32.77 mg/L DOC.We found that increasing DOM concentrations had a strong effect on invertebrate community composition below c. 10 mg/L. Across this range, abundances of individual taxa both increased and decreased, probably in response to environmental change induced by DOM. However, in lakes above this concentration, increasing DOM had minimal influence on community composition.As DOM concentrations continue to increase, faunal communities in lakes below this 10 mg/L DOC threshold are likely to undergo substantial change whereas those above this threshold are likely to be minimally impacted.


benthic invertebrates; browning; dissolved organic matter; lake; light limitation

Published in

Freshwater Biology
2024, Volume: 69, number: 2, pages: 288-299
Publisher: WILEY