Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Niemenkatu 73, 15140 Lahti, Finland. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) induces photodegradation of optically and functionally important organic compounds in lakes and may negatively impact aquatic biota. We disentangled UV impacts on dissolved organic matter (DOM) transformation, and algal and zoobenthic micro-organisms in two shallow subarctic lakes in NW Finnish Lapland; in a high-UV + low-DOM (tundra, Iso-Jehkas) and a low-UV + high-DOM (mountain birch woodland, Mukkavaara) system. In addition to site and seasonal comparisons, in situ experiments with three treatments (DARK, photosynthetically active radiation [PAR], UV + PAR) were set up floating on the lakes for four weeks during midsummer. Lake water and experimental lake water were analyzed for basic limnology, optical properties (dissolved organic carbon [DOC], specific UV absorbance [SUVA], colored DOM [CDOM], and DOM compounds) as well as for photosynthetic and photoprotective pigments in algae and microzoobenthos. DOC concentrations remained largely unchanged after the exposure period in seasonal and experimental samples in both lakes yet the biochemical composition of the carbon pools was distinctly altered. CDOM and SUVA decreased seasonally and under UV exposure in the experiments, and terrestrial DOM compounds decreased in the experiments, suggesting UV induced photodegradation of large molecular size DOM of terrestrial origin. Higher seasonal and experimental (UV + PAR vs. PAR) proportional CDOM degradation occurred in Iso-Jehkas (32%, 29%) than in Mukkavaara (19%, 9%). Accordingly, the high-UV + low-DOM lake was more sensitive to photodegradation despite originally low CDOM relative to the low-UV + high-DOM system where DOM biodegradation likely prevailed. Experimental results showed elevated algal carotenoid/chlorophyll ratios and microzoobenthic melanin under UV exposure indicating photoinhibition and photoprotective pigmentation. UV has a significant impact on aquatic food webs of subarctic lakes altering the biogeochemical composition of organic matter and organisms through mechanisms of photodegradation, photoinhibition and photoprotection.