Purdue University Graduate School
2023.10.12 Madaline Ritter.pdf (1.55 MB)

Physical characteristics affect biogeochemistry and ecosystem function across Indiana lentic waters

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posted on 2023-10-12, 20:32 authored by Madaline Boardman RitterMadaline Boardman Ritter

Physical traits and the hydrologic setting of lake and wetland environments strongly affect the biogeochemical signature of aquatic ecosystems and their structure and function in the landscape. Natural freshwater ecosystems have a high propensity for carbon capture and storage through aerobic production, sedimentation, and sequestration, yet differing physical characteristics including water depth, lake surface area, and watershed size likely influence the extent to which these processes occur. Anthropogenically modified ecosystems also demonstrate complex function regarding carbon cycles, where the influence of human disturbance heightens nutrients and carbon loads into aquatic systems and leads to unique biochemical regimes. Across Indiana, agricultural practices currently affect around 65 percent of the state’s landscape, while urban development and population growth are expected to expand throughout the state. This trend is modeled throughout the midwestern United States, where the impacts of urban development on aquatic environments is further heightened by expected changes in climate, as storm intensity strengthens, and rainfall increases during certain times of the year. While understudied, there is good reason to believe that Indiana’s lakes and wetlands have incredible variability in carbon processing and carbon quality within and between systems. This variation is influenced by the wide variety of drivers including hydrology, geomorphology, water chemistry, metabolic processes, and redox conditions. The interactive influence of each of these drivers, however, is poorly understood across wide scale gradients. Predicting ecosystem productivity and its relationship with carbon dynamics is therefore an important tool for understanding freshwater ecosystems’ contributions to global fluxes of carbon. The variability within and across midwestern ecosystems creates a challenging, yet critical paradigm to understand the complexities of carbon dynamics in aquatic ecosystems, emphasizing the importance for direct data collection across a stratified gradient of ecosystems. This research shows that 1) human-assigned classifications of system type, including lake, reservoir, and wetland, are useful tools in classifying the metabolic and nutrient regimes of lentic systems, and 2) morphological features including lake depth and watershed area influence the structure of carbon quality throughout the water column. Findings provide valuable information to watershed and lake managers on the importance of different physical drivers in determining water quality across a range of lentic systems.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jacob Hosen

Additional Committee Member 2

Sara McMillan

Additional Committee Member 3

Paris Collingsworth

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