A meromictic lake has layers of water which do not intermix. [Wetzel, Robert G. (2001). "Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems (Third Edition)" (Academic Press, New York). ISBN 978-0127447605. ] In ordinary, "holomictic" lakes, at least once each year there is a physical mixing of the surface and the deep waters [Lewis, W. M. Jr. (1983). "A revised classification of lakes based on mixing," "Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences" Vol. 40, no. 10, pp. 1779-1787.] . This mixing can be driven by wind, which creates waves and turbulence at the lake's surface, but wind is only effective at times of the year when the lake's deep waters are not much colder than its surface waters. In a "monomictic" lake, this mixing occurs once a year; in "dimictic" lakes, the mixing occurs twice a year (typically Spring and Autumn), and in "polymictic" lakes the mixing occurs several times a year. In meromictic lakes, the layers of the lake water remain unmixed for years, decades, or centuries.

The term "meromictic" was coined by the Austrian Ingo Findenegg in 1935, apparently based on the older word "holomictic;" the concepts and terminology used in describing meromictic lakes were essentially complete following some additions by G. Evelyn Hutchinson in 1937.Hakala, Anu (2004). [ "Meromixis as a part of lake evolution - observations and a revised classification of true meromictic lakes in Finland,"] "Boreal Environmental Research" Vol. 9, pp. 37-53.] [Findenegg, Ingo (1935). "Limnologische Untersuchungen im Kärntner Seengebiete. Ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis des Stoffhaushaltes in Alpenseen," "Internationale Revue der Gesamte Hydrobiologie" Vol. 32, pp. 369-423; as cited by Hakala (2004).] [Hutchinson, G. Evelyn (1937). "A contribution to the limnology of arid regions," "Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences" Vol. 33, 47-132, as cited by Hakala (2004).]


Among the consequences of this stable layering (or stratification) of lake waters is that the deeper layer (the "monimolimnion") receives little oxygen from the atmosphere. The monimolimnion becomes depleted of oxygen. While the surface layer (the "mixolimnion") may have 10 mg/l or more dissolved oxygen in summer, the monimolimnion in a meromictic lake has less than 1 mg/l. [Lampert, Winfried and Sommer, Ulrich (1997). "Limnoecology: The Ecology of Lakes and Streams" (Oxford University Press, Oxford). Translation by James F. Haney. ISBN 978-0195095920.] Very few organisms can live in this oxygen-poor environment. One exception is purple sulfur bacteria. These bacteria, which are commonly found at the top of the monimolimnion in meromictic lakes, use sulfur compounds for photosynthesis; sulfur compounds are one of the products of sediment decomposition in "anoxic" (oxygen poor) environments.

This type of lake may form for a number of reasons:
* the basin is unusually deep and steep-sided compared to the lake's surface area
* the lower layer of the lake is highly saline and denser than the higher levels of water

The layers of sediment at the bottom of a meromictic lake remain relatively undisturbed because there is very little physical mixing and few living organisms to stir them up, and very little oxygen or chemical decomposition. For this reason corings of the sediment at the bottom of meromictic lakes are important research tools in tracing climate history at the lake.

Occasionally carbon dioxide (CO2) or other dissolved gasses can build up relatively undisturbed in the lower layers of a meromictic lake. When the stratification is disturbed, as could happen due to an earthquake, a limnic eruption may result. In 1986, a notable event of this type took place at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, causing nearly 1,800 deaths. [Krajick, Kevin (2003). " [ Defusing Africa's Killer Lakes] ," "Smithsonian Magazine", September 2003 issue.]

List of meromictic lakes

There are meromictic lakes all over the world. The distribution appears to be clustered, but this may be due to incomplete investigations. Depending on the exact definition of "meromictic", the ratio between meromictic and holomictic lakes are between 1:1000 and 1:3000. [Hakala (2005), page 20]


* Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun in Cameroon
* Lake Kivu in Rwanda
* Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, The DRC, Tanzania and Zambia


* Lake Vanda in Ross Dependency


* Pantai Keracut (Keracut Beach) Lake, National Park of Penang, northwest Penang island, Malaysia
* The Black Sea is also considered to be meromictic.


* Lake Fidler, in Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia.


*"Kärntner Seen" (Alpine lakes in the Austrian province of Carinthia; studied by Ingo Findenegg in the 1930s).
*Lake Vähä-Pitkusta in Finland.
*Salsvatnet, Kilevann, Tronstadvatn, Birkelandsvatn, Rørholtfjorden, Botnvatn, Rørhopvatn and Strandvatn lakes in Norway.
*Lake Cadagno is a "crenogenic" meromictic lake in Switzerland, and the location of the Alpine Biology Center ( [ Centro Biologia Alpina] ).
*Lac Pavin and Lac du Bourget [Jacquet, Stéphan et al. (2003). " [ The proliferation of the toxic cyanobacterium Planktothrix rubescens following restoration of the largest natural French lake (Lac du Bourget)] ," "Harmful Algae", 4:651-672.] in France

North America

* Ballston Lake, 30 km NNW of Albany, New York
* Crawford Lake near Milton, Ontario
* Fayetteville Green Lake and Round Lake, in Green Lakes State Park near Syracuse, New York
* Great Salt Lake near Salt Lake City, Utah
* Irondequoit Bay near Rochester, New York is also considered meromictic; use of road salt has been cited as the main reason for its change
* Lower Mystic Lake near Arlington and Medford, Massachusetts
* McGinnis Lake in Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Ontario
* Mahoney Lake in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
* Pink Lake in Gatineau Park, Quebec
* Soap Lake in Washington
* Sunfish Lake near Waterloo, Ontario



*Hutchinson, G. Evelyn (1957). "A Treatise on Limnology. Volume I: Geography, Physics and Chemistry," (Wiley, New York). ISBN 978-0471425700.
*Hakala, Anu (2005). [ Paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic studies on the sediments of Lake Vähä-Pitkusta and observations of meromixis] , University of Helsinki doctoral dissertation.

External links

* [ "Density Stratification"] , part of an educational website [ Water on the Web] operated by the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Retrieved 11-March-2007.
* [ Lake Fidler revived]

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