Feasting on terrestrial organic matter: Dining in a dark lake changes microbial decomposition


Boreal lakes are major components of the global carbon cycle, partly because of sediment-bound heterotrophic microorganisms that decompose within-lake and terrestrially derived organic matter (t-OM). The ability for sediment bacteria to break down and alter t-OM may depend on environmental characteristics and community composition. However, the connection between these two potential drivers of decomposition is poorly understood. We tested how bacterial activity changed along experimental gradients in the quality and quantity of t-OM inputs into littoral sediments of two small boreal lakes, a dark and a clear lake, and measured the abundance of operational taxonomic units and functional genes to identify mechanisms underlying bacterial responses. We found that bacterial production (BP) decreased across lakes with aromatic dissolved organic matter (DOM) in sediment pore water, but the process …

Global change biology
Erik Emilson
Erik Emilson
Research Scientist, Watershed Ecology Team Lead, Associate Editor CJFR

I am interested in how forests support freshwater ecosystem services. My research combines microbial and molecular approaches to undertand how forest productivity and disturbances affect ecosystem functions in headwater streams and lakes.