Oxygen concentration profiles in sediments of two ancient lakes: Lake Baikal (Siberia, Russia) and Lake Malawi (East Africa)

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Abstract

Oxygen concentration profiles have been measured, by means of with microelectrodes in sediments of Lake Baikal and Lake Malawi, along transects allowing to give a survey of two major ancient Rift lakes: Lake Baikal (Eastern Siberia) and Lake Malawi (East Africa), along depth transects in the constitutive basins of the lakes and/or of relevant depths with regard to oxygen (including including the deepest point, 1680 m, in Lake Baikal). Sediment oxygen penetration depths (SOPs) display very different patterns, depending on the lake in the two lakes. In Lake Baikal, SOPs are variable, show no significant relationship with bathymetric depth and are surprisingly deep on Akademichesky ridge (> 50.0 mm), emphasizing the distinctive feature of this region in the lake. While the Selenga river is an important source of eutrophication, the similarity of SOP-values in the Selenga shallow with those of most other sites suggests either a dilution of organic material by allochthonous matter, or a strong south-to-north transport of particles. In Lake Malawi, available oxygen is restricted to a maximum of three millimetres of the sediment, and there is a negative relationship with bathymetric depth, as a result of a steady decline of oxygen concentration with depth through the water column. Amongst the few parameters known to affect SOPs, the oxygen consumption by the sediment seems the most significant in both lakes. SOP-values furthermore confirm differences in the trophic status of Baikal and Malawi, respectively. The importance of oxygen as a factor likely to create ecological segregation for benthic organisms is discussed. Lake Malawi offers possibilities of bathymetric segregation but no vertical segregation in the sediment. In contrast, no bathymetric segregation related to oxygen is possible in Lake Baikal, but vertical segregation in the sediment is very likely.

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