Articles | Volume 19, issue 11
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 4505–4515, 2015
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 4505–4515, 2015

Research article 09 Nov 2015

Research article | 09 Nov 2015

Quantitative analysis of biogeochemically controlled density stratification in an iron-meromictic lake

E. Nixdorf1,2 and B. Boehrer2 E. Nixdorf and B. Boehrer
  • 1Department of Environmental Informatics, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 2Department of Lake Research, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, 39114 Magdeburg, Germany

Abstract. Lake stratification controls the cycling of dissolved matter within the water body. This is of particular interest in the case of meromictic lakes, where permanent density stratification of the deep water limits vertical transport, and a chemically different (reducing) milieu can be established. As a consequence, the geochemical setting and the mixing regime of a lake can stabilize each other mutually. We attempt a quantitative approach to the contribution of chemical reactions sustaining the density stratification. As an example, we chose the prominent case of iron meromixis in Waldsee near Doebern, a small lake that originated from near-surface underground mining of lignite. From a data set covering 4 years of monthly measured electrical conductivity profiles, we calculated summed conductivity as a quantitative variable reflecting the amount of electro-active substances in the entire lake. Seasonal variations followed the changing of the chemocline height. Coinciding changes of electrical conductivities in the monimolimnion indicated that a considerable share of substances, precipitated by the advancing oxygenated epilimnion, re-dissolved in the remaining anoxic deep waters and contributed considerably to the density stratification. In addition, we designed a lab experiment, in which we removed iron compounds and organic material from monimolimnetic waters by introducing air bubbles. Precipitates could be identified by visual inspection. Eventually, the remaining solutes in the aerated water layer looked similar to mixolimnetic Waldsee water. Due to its reduced concentration of solutes, this water became less dense and remained floating on nearly unchanged monimolimnetic water. In conclusion, iron meromixis as seen in Waldsee did not require two different sources of incoming waters, but the inflow of iron-rich deep groundwater and the aeration through the lake surface were fully sufficient for the formation of iron meromixis.