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The size-distribution of Earth's lakes
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2016 (English)In: Scientific Reports, ISSN 2045-2322, E-ISSN 2045-2322, Vol. 6, 29633Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

Globally, there are millions of small lakes, but a small number of large lakes. Most key ecosystem patterns and processes scale with lake size, thus this asymmetry between area and abundance is a fundamental constraint on broad-scale patterns in lake ecology. Nonetheless, descriptions of lake size-distributions are scarce and empirical distributions are rarely evaluated relative to theoretical predictions. Here we develop expectations for Earth's lake area-distribution based on percolation theory and evaluate these expectations with data from a global lake census. Lake surface areas >= 8.5 km(2) are power-law distributed with a tail exponent (T = 1.97) and fractal dimension (d = 1.38), similar to theoretical expectations (T = 2.05; d = 4/3). Lakes <8.5 km(2) are not power-law distributed. An independently developed regional lake census exhibits a similar transition and consistency with theoretical predictions. Small lakes deviate from the power-law distribution because smaller lakes are more susceptible to dynamical change and topographic behavior at sub-kilometer scales is not self-similar. Our results provide a robust characterization and theoretical explanation for the lake size-abundance relationship, and form a fundamental basis for understanding and predicting patterns in lake ecology at broad scales.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 6, 29633
National Category
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124330DOI: 10.1038/srep29633ISI: 000379770300001PubMedID: 27388607OAI: diva2:962993
Available from: 2016-09-07 Created: 2016-08-04 Last updated: 2016-09-07Bibliographically approved

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