Remote European mountain lake ecosystems: Regionalisation and ecological status

J. Catalan, C. J. Curtis, M. Kernan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


A survey of c. 350 remote high altitude and high latitude lakes from 12 different mountain regions across Europe was undertaken to explore ecosystem variability, climate forcing, environmental conditions and pollution threats at a scale not previously attempted. 2. Lakes were sampled for a range of contemporary and sub-fossil organisms including planktonic crustaceans, rotifers, littoral invertebrates, chironomids, diatoms and cladocerans. Survey and cartographic data were used to determine environmental characteristics at each site. Organic pollutants and trace metal concentrations were measured in the lake sediment. 3. A number of separate studies were undertaken which examined the environmental characteristics of the surveyed lakes (climate forcing and chemical composition), distribution of biota relative to local, regional and biogeographical factors and pollution threats (acidification, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants) to these sensitive ecosystems. 4. There is a strong regional element to the way that environmental factors combine (including climate and pollution threats) and the biota responds in mountain lakes across Europe. From a management perspective it is clear that lake classification and the development of useful typologies and assessments of reference conditions should be undertaken at regional rather than pan-European scales. 5. There are some common features across lake districts related to the timing of industrialisation, but the studies carried out on metals, organic pollutants and nitrate deposition indicate that each lake district has distinct pollution threats. Climate warming already affects most of the lake districts and there are considerable uncertainties as to how this will modify conditions in remote European mountain systems. 6. The lake district concept goes beyond a geographical construct and merits further theoretical and experimental development as an ecological concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2419-2432
Number of pages14
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Alpine lakes
  • Climate warming
  • Lake typology
  • Long-range pollution
  • Sub-arctic lakes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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