Limnology (/lɪmˈnɒlədʒi/ lim-NOL-ə-jee; from Greek λίμνη, limne, "lake" and λόγος, logos, "knowledge"), is the study of inland aquatic ecosystems. The study of limnology includes aspects of the biological, chemical, physical, and geological characteristics and functions of inland waters (running and standing waters, fresh and saline, natural or man-made). This includes the study of lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, springs, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. A more recent sub-discipline of limnology, termed landscape limnology, studies, manages, and seeks to conserve these ecosystems using a landscape perspective, by explicitly examining connections between an aquatic ecosystem and its watershed. Recently, the need to understand global inland waters as part of the Earth System created a sub-discipline called global limnology. This approach considers processes in inland waters on a global scale, like the role of inland aquatic ecosystems in global biogeochemical cycles.
Limnology is closely related to aquatic ecology and hydrobiology, which study aquatic organisms and their interactions with the abiotic (non-living) environment. While limnology has substantial overlap with freshwater-focused disciplines (e.g., freshwater biology), it also includes the study of inland salt lakes.
The term limnology was coined by François-Alphonse Forel (1841–1912) who established the field with his studies of Lake Geneva. Interest in the discipline rapidly expanded, and in 1922 August Thienemann (a German zoologist) and Einar Naumann (a Swedish botanist) co-founded the International Society of Limnology (SIL, from Societas Internationalis Limnologiae). Forel's original definition of limnology, "the oceanography of lakes", was expanded to encompass the study of all inland waters, and influenced Benedykt Dybowski's work on Lake Baikal.
Prominent early American limnologists included G. Evelyn Hutchinson and Ed Deevey. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Edward A. Birge, Chancey Juday, and Arthur D. Hasler contributed to the development of the Center for Limnology.
Physical properties of aquatic ecosystems are determined by a combination of heat, currents, waves and other seasonal distributions of environmental conditions. The morphometry of a body of water depends on the type of feature (such as a lake, river, stream, wetland, estuary etc.) and the structure of the earth surrounding the body of water. Lakes, for instance, are classified by their formation, and zones of lakes are defined by water depth. River and stream system morphometry is driven by underlying geology of the area as well as the general velocity of the water. Another type of aquatic system which falls within the study of limnology is estuaries. Estuaries are bodies of water classified by the interaction of a river and the ocean or sea. Wetlands vary in size, shape, and pattern however the most common types, marshes, bogs and swamps, often fluctuate between containing shallow, freshwater and being dry depending on the time of year.
Light zonation is the concept of how the amount of sunlight penetration into water influences the structure of a body of water. These zones define various levels of productivity within an aquatic ecosystems such as a lake. For instance, the depth of the water column which sunlight is able to penetrate and where most plant life is able to grow is known as the photic or euphotic zone. The rest of the water column which is deeper and does not receive sufficient amounts of sunlight for plant growth is known as the aphotic zone.
Similar to light zonation, thermal stratification or thermal zonation is a way of grouping parts of the water body within an aquatic system based on the temperature of different lake layers. The less turbid the water, the more light is able to penetrate, and thus heat is conveyed deeper in the water. Heating declines exponentially with depth in the water column, so the water will be warmest near the surface but progressively cooler as moving downwards. There are three main sections that define thermal stratification in a lake. The epilimnion is closest to the water surface and absorbs long- and shortwave radiation to warm the water surface. During cooler months, wind shear can contribute to cooling of the water surface. The thermocline is an area within the water column where water temperatures rapidly decrease. The bottom layer is the hypolimnion, which tends to have the coldest water because its depth restricts sunlight from reaching it. In temperate lakes, fall-season cooling of surface water results in turnover of the water column, where the thermocline is disrupted, and the lake temperature profile becomes more uniform.
The chemical composition of water in aquatic ecosystems is influenced by natural characteristics and processes including precipitation, underlying soil and bedrock in the watershed, erosion, evaporation, and sedimentation. All bodies of water have a certain composition of both organic and inorganic elements and compounds. Biological reactions also affect the chemical properties of water. In addition to natural processes, human activities strongly influence the chemical composition of aquatic systems and their water quality.
Dissolved oxygen and dissolved carbon dioxide are often discussed together due their coupled role in respiration and photosynthesis. Dissolved oxygen concentrations can be altered by physical, chemical, and biological processes and reaction. Physical processes including wind mixing can increase dissolved oxygen concentrations, particularly in surface waters of aquatic ecosystems. Because dissolved oxygen solubility is linked to water temperatures, changes in temperature affect dissolved oxygen concentrations as warmer water has a lower capacity to "hold" oxygen as colder water. Biologically, both photosynthesis and aerobic respiration affect dissolved oxygen concentrations. Photosynthesis by autotrophic organisms, such as phytoplankton and aquatic algae, increases dissolved oxygen concentrations while simultaneously reducing carbon dioxide concentrations, since carbon dioxide is taken up during photosynthesis. All aerobic organisms in the aquatic environment take up dissolved oxygen during aerobic respiration, while carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct of this reaction. Because photosynthesis is light-limited, both photosynthesis and respiration occur during the daylight hours, while only respiration occurs during dark hours or in dark portions of an ecosystem. The balance between dissolved oxygen production and consumption is calculated as the aquatic metabolism rate.
Vertical changes in the concentrations of dissolved oxygen are affected by both wind mixing of surface waters and the balance between photosynthesis and respiration of organic matter. These vertical changes, known as profiles, are based on similar principles as thermal stratification and light penetration. As light availability decreases deeper in the water column, photosynthesis rates also decrease, and less dissolved oxygen is produced. This means that dissolved oxygen concentrations generally decrease as you move deeper into the body of water because of photosynthesis is not replenishing dissolved oxygen that is being taken up through respiration. During periods of thermal stratification, water density gradients prevent oxygen-rich surface waters from mixing with deeper waters. Prolonged periods of stratification can result in the depletion of bottom-water dissolved oxygen; when dissolved oxygen concentrations are below 2 milligrams per liter, waters are considered hypoxic. When dissolved oxygen concentrations are approximately 0 milligrams per liter, conditions are anoxic. Both hypoxic and anoxic waters reduce available habitat for organisms that respire oxygen, and contribute to changes in other chemical reactions in the water.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are ecologically significant nutrients in aquatic systems. Nitrogen is generally present as a gas in aquatic ecosystems however most water quality studies tend to focus on nitrate, nitrite and ammonia levels. Most of these dissolved nitrogen compounds follow a seasonal pattern with greater concentrations in the fall and winter months compared to the spring and summer. Phosphorus has a different role in aquatic ecosystems as it is a limiting factor in the growth of phytoplankton because of generally low concentrations in the water. Dissolved phosphorus is also crucial to all living things, is often very limiting to primary productivity in freshwater, and has its own distinctive ecosystem cycling.
One way to classify lakes (or other bodies of water) is with the trophic state index. An oligotrophic lake is characterised by relatively low levels of primary production and low levels of nutrients. A eutrophic lake has high levels of primary productivity due to very high nutrient levels. Eutrophication of a lake can lead to algal blooms. Dystrophic lakes have high levels of humic matter and typically have yellow-brown, tea-coloured waters. These categories do not have rigid specifications; the classification system can be seen as more of a spectrum encompassing the various levels of aquatic productivity.
People who study limnology are called limnologists. There are many professional organizations related to limnology and other aspects of the aquatic science, including the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, the Asociación Ibérica de Limnología, the International Society of Limnology, the Polish Limnological Society, and the Freshwater Biological Association.
In structural geology, an allochthon, or an allochthonous block, is a large block of rock which has been moved from its original site of formation, usually by low angle thrust faulting. An allochthon which is isolated from the rock that pushed it into position is called a klippe. If an allochthon has a "hole" in it so that one can view the autochthon beneath the allochthon, the hole is called a "window" (or Fenster). Etymology: Greek; 'allo' = other, and 'chthon' = earth.
In limnology, allochthonous sources of carbon or nutrients come from outside the aquatic system (such as plant and soil material). Carbon sources from within the system, such as algae and the microbial breakdown of aquatic particulate organic carbon, are autochthonous. In aquatic food webs, the portion of biomass derived from allochthonous material is then named "allochthony". In streams and small lakes, allochthonous sources of carbon are dominant while in large lakes and the ocean, autochthonous sources dominate.Aquatic science
Aquatic Science is the multidisciplinary study of aquatic ecosystems, both freshwater and marine. Scientific investigations range in scale from the molecular level of contaminants to the stresses on entire ecosystems.
Some of the major fields of study within aquatic sciences include: limnology (study of lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater); biogeochemistry; aquatic ecology; oceanography; marine biology; and hydrology.Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), formerly known as the Limnological Society of America and the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, is a scientific society established in 1936 with the goal of advancing the sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. With approximately 4,000 members in nearly 60 different countries, ASLO is the largest scientific society, worldwide, devoted to either limnology or oceanography or both. ASLO’s mission is to foster a diverse, international scientific community that creates, integrates and communicates knowledge across the full spectrum of aquatic sciences, advances public awareness and education about aquatic resources and research, and promotes scientific stewardship of aquatic resources for the public interest. Its products and activities are directed toward these ends.Bank (geography)
In geography, the word bank generally refers to the land alongside a body of water. Different structures are referred to as banks in different fields of geography, as follows.
In limnology (the study of inland waters), a stream bank or river bank is the terrain alongside the bed of a river, creek, or stream. The bank consists of the sides of the channel, between which the flow is confined. Stream banks are of particular interest in fluvial geography, which studies the processes associated with rivers and streams and the deposits and landforms created by them. Bankfull discharge is a discharge great enough to fill the channel and overtop the banks.The descriptive terms left bank and right bank refer to the perspective of an observer looking downstream, a well-known example of this being the sections of Paris as defined by the river Seine. The shoreline of ponds, swamps, estuaries, reservoirs, or lakes are also of interest in limnology and are sometimes referred to as banks. The grade of all these banks or shorelines can vary from vertical to a shallow slope.
In freshwater ecology, banks are of interest as the location of riparian habitats. Riparian zones occur along upland and lowland river and stream beds. The ecology around and depending on a marsh, swamp, slough, or estuary, sometimes called a bank, is likewise studied in freshwater ecology.
Banks are also of interest in navigation, where the term can refer either to a barrier island or a submerged plateau, such as an ocean bank. A barrier island is a long narrow island composed of sand and forming a barrier between an island lagoon or sound and the ocean. A submerged plateau is a relatively flat topped elevation of the sea floor at shallow depth (generally less than 200 m), typically on the continental shelf or near an island.Biogeochemistry
Biogeochemistry is the scientific discipline that involves the study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment (including the biosphere, the cryosphere, the hydrosphere, the pedosphere, the atmosphere, and the lithosphere). In particular, biogeochemistry is the study of the cycles of chemical elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, and their interactions with and incorporation into living things transported through earth scale biological systems in space through time. The field focuses on chemical cycles which are either driven by or influence biological activity. Particular emphasis is placed on the study of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus cycles. Biogeochemistry is a systems science closely related to systems ecology.Center for Limnology
The Center for Limnology (CFL) is a research center within the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Established by the UW-Madison Board of Regents in July 1982, the mission of the center is to plan, conduct, and facilitate inland water research.Drainage system (geomorphology)
In geomorphology, drainage systems, also known as river systems, are the patterns formed by the streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular drainage basin. They are governed by the topography of the land, whether a particular region is dominated by hard or soft rocks, and the gradient of the land. Geomorphologists and hydrologists often view streams as being part of drainage basins. A drainage basin is the topographic region from which a stream receives runoff, throughflow, and groundwater flow. The number, size, and shape of the drainage basins found in an area vary and the larger the topographic map, the more information on the drainage basin is available.Fen
A fen is one of the main types of wetland, the others being grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs. Along with bogs, fens are a kind of mire. Fens are minerotrophic peatlands, usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. They are characterised by their distinct water chemistry, which is pH neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients. They are usually dominated by grasses and sedges, and typically have brown mosses in general including Scorpidium or Drepanocladus. Fens frequently have a high diversity of other plant species including carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula. They may also occur along large lakes and rivers where seasonal changes in water level maintain wet soils with few woody plants. The distribution of individual species of fen plants is often closely connected to water regimes and nutrient concentrations.Fens have a characteristic set of plant species, which sometimes provide the best indicators of environmental conditions. For example, fen indicator species in New York State include Carex flava, Cladium mariscoides, Potentilla fruticosa, Pogonia ophioglossoides and Parnassia glauca.Fens are distinguished from bogs, which are acidic, low in minerals, and usually dominated by sedges and shrubs, along with abundant mosses in the genus Sphagnum. Bogs also tend to exist on dome-shaped landmasses where they receive almost all of their usually-abundant moisture from rainfall, whereas fens appear on slopes, flats, or depressions and are fed by surface and underground water in addition to rain.
Fens have been damaged in the past by land drainage, and also by peat cutting. Some are now being carefully restored with modern management methods. The principal challenges are to restore natural water flow regimes, to maintain the quality of water, and to prevent invasion by woody plants.Freshwater ecosystem
Freshwater ecosystems are a subset of Earth's aquatic ecosystems. They include lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, springs, bogs, and wetlands. They can be contrasted with marine ecosystems, which have a larger salt content. Freshwater habitats can be classified by different factors, including temperature, light penetration, nutrients, and vegetation.
Freshwater ecosystems can be divided into lentic ecosystems (still water) and lotic ecosystems (flowing water).Limnology (and its branch freshwater biology) is a study about freshwater ecosystems. It is a part of hydrobiology.
Original attempts to understand and monitor freshwater ecosystems were spurred on by threats to human health (ex. Cholera outbreaks due to sewage contamination). Early monitoring focused on chemical indicators, then bacteria, and finally algae, fungi and protozoa. A new type of monitoring involves quantifying differing groups of organisms (macroinvertebrates, macrophytes and fish) and measuring the stream conditions associated with them.Freshwater fish
Freshwater fish are those that spend some or all of their lives in fresh water, such as rivers and lakes, with a salinity of less than 0.05%. These environments differ from marine conditions in many ways, the most obvious being the difference in levels of salinity. To survive fresh water, the fish need a range of physiological adaptations.
41.24% of all known species of fish are found in fresh water. This is primarily due to the rapid speciation that the scattered habitats make possible. When dealing with ponds and lakes, one might use the same basic models of speciation as when studying island biogeography.G. Evelyn Hutchinson
George Evelyn Hutchinson (January 30, 1903 – May 17, 1991), was a British ecologist sometimes described as the "father of modern ecology." He contributed for more than sixty years to the fields of limnology, systems ecology, radiation ecology, entomology, genetics, biogeochemistry, a mathematical theory of population growth, art history, philosophy, religion, and anthropology. He worked on the passage of phosphorus through lakes, the chemistry and biology of lakes, the theory of interspecific competition, and on insect taxonomy and genetics, zoo-geography and African water bugs. He is known as one of the first to combine ecology with mathematics. He became an international expert on lakes and wrote the four-volume Treatise on Limnology in 1957.Hutchinson earned his degree in zoology from Cambridge University but chose not to earn a doctorate, of which he came to be proud as he aged. Although born in England, he spent nearly his entire professional life at Yale University in the United States where he was Sterling Professor of Zoology and focused on working with graduate students.Hydrobiologia
Hydrobiologia: The International Journal of Aquatic Sciences is a scientific journal specialising in hydrobiology, including limnology and oceanography, systematics of aquatic organisms and aquatic ecology.Landscape limnology
Landscape limnology is the spatially explicit study of lakes, streams, and wetlands as they interact with freshwater, terrestrial, and human landscapes to determine the effects of pattern on ecosystem processes across temporal and spatial scales. Limnology is the study of inland water bodies inclusive of rivers, lakes, and wetlands; landscape limnology seeks to integrate all of these ecosystem types.
The terrestrial component represents spatial hierarchies of landscape features that influence which materials, whether solutes or organisms, are transported to aquatic systems; aquatic connections represent how these materials are transported; and human activities reflect features that influence how these materials are transported as well as their quantity and temporal dynamics.Paludification
Paludification is the most common process by which peatlands in the boreal zone are formed.Planktivore
A planktivore is an aquatic organism that feeds on planktonic food, including zooplankton and phytoplankton.Rapids
Rapids are sections of a river where the river bed has a relatively steep gradient, causing an increase in water velocity and turbulence.
Rapids are hydrological features between a run (a smoothly flowing part of a stream) and a cascade. Rapids are characterised by the river becoming shallower with some rocks exposed above the flow surface. As flowing water splashes over and around the rocks, air bubbles become mixed in with it and portions of the surface acquire a white colour, forming what is called "whitewater". Rapids occur where the bed material is highly resistant to the erosive power of the stream in comparison with the bed downstream of the rapids. Very young streams flowing across solid rock may be rapids for much of their length. Rapids cause water aeration of the stream or river resulting in better water quality.
Rapids are categorized in classes, generally running from I to VI. A Class 5 rapid may be categorized as Class 5.1-5.9. While class I rapids are easy to navigate and require little maneuvering, class VI rapids pose threat to life with little or no chance for rescue. River rafting sports are carried out where many rapids are present in the course.Revetment
In stream restoration, river engineering or coastal engineering, revetments are sloping structures placed on banks or cliffs in such a way as to absorb the energy of incoming water. In military engineering they are structures, again sloped, formed to secure an area from artillery, bombing, or stored explosives. River or coastal revetments are usually built to preserve the existing uses of the shoreline and to protect the slope, as defense against erosion.Sessility (motility)
Sessility is the biological property of an organism describing its lack of a means of self-locomotion. Absent natural motility sessile organisms are normally immobile. This is distinct from the botanical meaning of sessility, which refers to an organism or biological structure attached directly by its base without a stalk.
Sessile organisms can move via external forces (such as water currents), but are usually permanently attached to something. Organisms such as corals lay down their own substrate from which they grow. Other sessile organisms grow from a solid such as a rock, dead tree trunk, or a manmade object such as a buoy or ship's hull.Thermocline
A thermocline (also known as the thermal layer or the metalimnion in lakes) is a thin but distinct layer in a large body of fluid (e.g. water, as in an ocean or lake; or air, e.g. an atmosphere) in which temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below. In the ocean, the thermocline divides the upper mixed layer from the calm deep water below.
Depending largely on season, latitude, and turbulent mixing by wind, thermoclines may be a semi-permanent feature of the body of water in which they occur, or they may form temporarily in response to phenomena such as the radiative heating/cooling of surface water during the day/night. Factors that affect the depth and thickness of a thermocline include seasonal weather variations, latitude, and local environmental conditions, such as tides and currents.