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Global warming harms lakes
Date:7/16/2012

This release is available in German.

Global warming also affects lakes. Based on the example of Lake Zurich, researchers from the University of Zurich demonstrate that there is insufficient water turnover in the lake during the winter and harmful Burgundy blood algae are increasingly thriving. The warmer temperatures are thus compromising the successful lake clean-ups of recent decades.

Many large lakes in Central Europe became heavily overfertilized in the twentieth century through sewage. As a result, algal blooms developed and cyanobacteria (photosynthetic bacteria) especially began to appear en masse. Some of these organisms form toxins that can compromise the use of the lake water. Dying algal blooms consume a lot of oxygen, thereby reducing the oxygen content in the lake with negative consequences for the fish stocks.

The problem with overfertilization was not merely the absolute amount of oxygen and phosphorus, the two most important nutrients for algae. Mankind has also changed the ratio between the two nutrients: The phosphorus load in lakes has been reduced vastly in recent decades, yet pollution with nitrogen compounds has not decreased on the same scale. The current ratio between the nutrients can thus trigger a mass appearance of certain cyanobacteria, even in lakes that have been deemed "restored".

Burgundy blood algae grow more rapidly

"The problem today is that mankind is changing two sensitive lake properties at the same time, namely the nutrient ratios and, with global warming, water temperature," explains Thomas Posch, a limnologist from the University of Zurich. In collaboration with Zurich Water Supply, he analyzed 40 years' worth of data in a study that has just been published in Nature Climate Change.

The evaluation of this historical data on Lake Zurich reveals that
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Contact: Thomas Posch
posch@limnol.uzh.ch
41-446-349-224
University of Zurich
Source:Eurekalert  

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