The size-distribution of Earth's lakes
2016 (English)In: Scientific Reports, ISSN 2045-2322, E-ISSN 2045-2322, Vol. 6, 29633Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
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
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124330DOI: 10.1038/srep29633ISI: 000379770300001PubMedID: 27388607OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-124330DiVA: diva2:962993