Environmental and Climatic Factors Affecting Winter Hypoxia in a Freshwater Lake: Evidence for a Hypoxia Refuge and for Re-oxygenation Prior to Spring Ice Loss
Davis, Michael N.
McMahon, Thomas E.
Cutting, Kyle A.
Jaeger, Matthew E.
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Low dissolved oxygen, or hypoxia, is a common phenomenon in ice-covered lakes in winter. We measured dissolved oxygen (DO) before, during, and after ice-over to characterize the timing, severity, and spatial variability of winter hypoxia in Upper Red Rock Lake, Montana, home to one of the last remaining lacustrine populations of endemic Montana Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus). Unlike most previous investigations of winterkill-prone lakes, we observed considerable horizontal spatial variability in DO, a non-linear winter oxygen depletion rate, and lake-wide re-oxygenation 2–4 weeks prior to spring ice loss. Parts of the upper 1 m of the lake and near stream mouths remained well-oxygenated even during late winter. DO levels were strongly associated with maximum daily air temperature. Our analysis of a 28-year weather record revealed large interannual variability in risk of winter hypoxia, with a slight declining trend in winter severity (number of days with maximum air temperatures ≤ 0°C) in Upper Red Rock Lake. The approach we used in our study provides a useful framework for quantifying and mapping the seasonal dynamics of the extent and severity of winter hypoxia, and for identifying critical winter habitats.
Davis, Michael N., Thomas E. McMahon, Kyle A. Cutting, and Matthew E. Jaeger. “Environmental and Climatic Factors Affecting Winter Hypoxia in a Freshwater Lake: Evidence for a Hypoxia Refuge and for Re-Oxygenation Prior to Spring Ice Loss.” Hydrobiologia 847, no. 19 (September 7, 2020): 3983–3997. doi:10.1007/s10750-020-04382-z.