Department of Lake Research . Photo: André Künzelmann/UFZ

Department Lake Research

Which functions do lakes and reservoirs fulfil for our society and in our natural environment? How can we minimise the effects of anthropogenic stressors on lakes and reservoirs and which management strategies help these ecosystems to be more resilient? Can we describe the ecosystem dynamics in standing waters using mathematical models? Can these models provide reliable predictions of the impacts from global change, which will help us to optimise our management strategies? How can we adjust aquatic ecosystems, their management, and their use to climate change?

Lakes and reservoirs fulfil many functions in the waterscape, landscape, and for humankind. Their ecological status depends on various influencing factors like climate, land use and biogeochemistry of their drainage basin, pollution or anthropogenic use. The challenge of sustainably developing our lakes and reservoirs is therefore centered on an integrated management of the water body, its drainage basin and the anticipated services to humans. We work in four working groups – Biogeochemistry, Limnophysics and Modelling, Microbiology and Plankton – to quantify, manage and predict the dynamics and matter fluxes in lake/reservoir ecosystems within the context of landscape, climate, and human impacts.

Our work focusses on reservoirs, which are more heavily managed than most natural lakes due to their anthropogenic use. The management of so-called multi-purpose reservoirs is challenging because it is characterised by conflicting services, such as the provision of drinking water or flood protection. Important management issues like, for instance, the trade-offs and interactions between water quantity management and the management of the water quality or the adaptation of our water bodies and their management to climate change, remain key challenges for researchers, managers, and the public.

Our objective is to encourage an integration of ecological expertise in the management of lakes and reservoirs with a special focus on climate adaptation, intact ecosystems, and a sustainable provisioning of ecosystem services. We aim at providing appropriate tools and problem-solving approaches to water managers and reservoir operators and believe that a profound understanding of the key components of the ecosystem and their interactions are essential for this.