Evaluation of primary production in Lake Erie by multiple proxies

Nathaniel E. Ostrom, Hunter J. Carrick, Michael R. Twiss, Leah Piwinski

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36 Scopus citations


Direct measurements of rates of primary production in Lake Erie are few and uncertainties surround rate measurements based on radiocarbon and the light-dark bottle incubation methods. For these reasons, we conducted a series of simultaneous primary productivity measurements in Lake Erie in July and August of 2003, based on incubation with [14C]-NaHCO3, the light-dark bottle method, and incubation with 18O enriched water. Significant differences in the rates of primary production obtained by incubations with [18O]-H2O (0.19-34.60 mmol-O2 m-3 h-1), [14C]-NaHCO3 (0.03-90.50 mmol-C m-3 h-1), and light-dark bottles (0.06-60.78 mmol-O2 m-3 h-1) were evident in six out of nine comparisons. Within the epilimnion, [18O]-H2O rates of primary production were significantly different from rates based on [ 14C]-NaHCO3 and light-dark bottles in all four comparisons and lower rates were obtained in three out of four comparisons. Eutrophic conditions in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie were evident from the high primary production rates of 20.50-34.60 mmol-O2 m-3 h-1 ([18O]-H2O), 34.39-90.50 mmol-C m-3 -1 ([14C]-NaHCO3), and 46.66-60.78 mmol-O 2 m-3 h-1 (light-dark bottle). The photosynthetic quotient (PQ), or ratio of O2 production to CO 2 consumption during photosynthesis, averaged 0.64±0.33 and 1.93±1.93, respectively, based on a comparison of [18O]-H 2O to [14C]-NaHCO3 rates or light-dark bottle to [14C]-NaHCO3 production rates, respectively, demonstrating that photosynthesis in Lake Erie communities primarily follows expected stochiometric trends. The average of the ratio of production rates based on incubation with [18O]-H2O relative to those obtained by the light-dark incubation method was 0.66±0.33, indicating a tendency for the [18O]-H2O method to provide slightly lower estimates of production in Lake Erie. Lower estimates of primary production based on [18O]-H2O incubation relative to the other two approaches is most likely a consequence of consumption of labeled O2 within the cell or dilution of label by the release of O 2 from supersaturated cells. This latter effect may be particularly characteristic of eutrophic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-124
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Carbon-14
  • Lake Erie
  • Oxygen isotopes
  • Photosynthesis
  • Photosynthetic quotient


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