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Dynamics of photosynthetic pigments in an Andean lake in Colombia

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Guatavita Lake is a small, sheltered tropical high mountain lake located in the Colombian Andes, with a closed watershed and a maximum depth of 25 m. It is the freshwater source for human consumption in nearby small towns, as well as being a site of cultural value for the country, as it was a sacred place to indigenous peoples until about five centuries ago. As the structure and function of this aquatic ecosystem is poorly understood, this study provides initial knowledge on its phytoplankton biomass dynamics, which should be useful in designing efficient management plans with environmental baseline information for similar lakes elsewhere. Physical and chemical data, and photosynthetic pigment concentrations, were measured for the period November 1999–November 2000 at the central vertical axis of Guatavita Lake. The vertical profile of the chlorophyll-a concentration was closely related to the dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations and the thermal stratification characteristics. The maximum chlorophyll-a concentration in the metalimnion was recorded for the thermal stratification period (November 1999–June 2000). Deepening of the maximum chlorophyll-a concentration began in February, continuing to June, when it reached its lowest value at the 15 m depth. The phytoplankton biomass values showed an increment within the entire water column at the beginning of the mixing period (July). The relation between the metalimnetic peak of chlorophyll-a and the dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentration suggests the growth of the phytoplankton community is limited mainly by the availability of nitrogen.
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Keywords: Andean lake; Guatavita Lake; chlorophyll; phytoplankton biomass; tropical lake

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Unidad de Ecología y Sistemática, Departamento de Biología, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana; and 2: Departamento de Biología, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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