What is Limnology?

Perhaps the most common comment when we say "I am a limnologist" is something like "You're a what?". So let us try to answer this question here.

The term "limnology" comes from the Greek words limne, "lake", and logos, "knowledge". Limnology encompasses not only lakes but includes all forms of inland waters. Inland waters exist in a variety of forms: they include lakes and reservoirs, streams and rivers, ponds and wetlands, and any roadside ditch. Most lakes contain fresh water, but it is actually not uncommon that the water has high salinity - the world's largest lake for example, the Caspian Sea, is salty.

We investigate how the various organisms living in inland waters interact with their environment. By doing so, we deal with fundamental ecological questions that have bearings for real-world issues like water pollution, drinking water safety or hydropower dams. Limnology is about understanding entire ecosystems, so our work stretches from physics to population ecology. We participate in long-term ecological observations through our field station at Lake Erken, which makes part of a national network of research stations (SITES) and a worldwide global observation program of lakes (GLEON). We also have ongoing studies on the Baltic Sea through our research at Ar on Gotland.

One example of the processes we study is the transport of organic substances by water flowing via streams, rivers and lakes to the sea. These organic substances are flushed to streams and lakes from the surrounding land, but what happens to them in the water? Are they stored in the sediment at the bottom of the lakes? Are they just flushed by rivers to the sea, or are they transformed to gases on the way, and evaded to the atmosphere, for example as carbon dioxide?

We also do a lot of research on the activity and diversity of microorganisms in inland waters. Even though microbes may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when looking at a lake, they play a key role in the functioning of inland water ecosystems. At the other end of the size spectrum, we investigate how fish shape, and how they are shaped by ecological processes.

Welcome to discover Limnology

Further popular science presentations about our work:

He gets to the bottom of lake carbon dioxide emissions. Read interview with Sebastian Sobek

short presentation of our C-Cascades project with Anna Nydahl and Gesa Wehenmeyer.