University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Phytoplankton ecology of subarctic lakes in Finnish Lapland
Laura Johanna Forsström
Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
Climate is warming and it is especially seen in arctic areas, where the warming trend is expected to be greatest. Arctic freshwater ecosystems, which are a very characteristic feature of the arctic landscape, are especially sensitive to climate change. They could be used as early warning systems, but more information about the ecosystem functioning and responses are needed for proper interpretation of the observations. Phytoplankton species and assemblages could be especially suitable for climate-related studies, since they have short generation times and react rapidly to changes in the environment. In addition, phytoplankton provides a good tool for lake classifications, since different species have different requirements and tolerance ranges for various environmental factors. The use of biological indicators is especially useful in arctic areas, were many of the chemical factors commonly fall under the detection limit and therefore do not provide much information about the environment.
This work brings new information about species distribution and dynamics of arctic freshwater phytoplankton in relation to environmental factors. The phytoplankton of lakes in Finnish Lapland and other European high-altitude or high-latitude areas were compared. Most lakes were oligotrophic and dominated by flagellated species belonging to chrysophytes, cryptophytes and dinoflagellates. In Finnish Lapland cryptophytes were of less importance, whereas desmids had high species richness in many of the lakes. In Pan-European scale, geographical and catchment-related factors were explaining most of the differences in species distributions between different districts, whereas lake water chemistry (especially conductivity, SiO2 and pH) was most important regionally. Seasonal and interannual variation of phytoplankton was studied in subarctic Lake Saanajärvi. Characteristic phytoplankton species in this oligotrophic, dimictic lake belonged mainly to chrysophytes and diatoms. The maximum phytoplankton biomass in Lake Saanajärvi occurs during autumn, while spring biomass is very low. During years with heavy snow cover the lake suffers from pH drop caused by melt waters, but the effects of this acid pulse are restricted to surface layers and last for a relatively short period. In addition to some chemical parameters (mainly Ca and nutrients), length of the mixing cycle and physical factors such as lake water temperature and thermal stability of water column had major impact on phytoplankton dynamics. During a year with long and strong thermal stability, the phytoplankton community developed towards an equilibrium state, with heavy dominance of only a few taxa for a longer period of time. During a year with higher windiness and less thermal stability, the species composition was more diverse and species with different functional strategies were able to occur simultaneously.
The results of this work indicate that although arctic lakes in general share many common features concerning their catchment and water chemistry, large differences in biological features can be found even in a relatively small area. Most likely the lakes with very different algal flora do not respond in a similar way to differences in the environmental factors, and more information about specific arctic lake types is needed. The results also show considerable year to year differences in phytoplankton species distribution and dynamics, and these changes are most likely linked to climatic factors.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 16.11.2006