Lakes Phytoplankton Primary Production


An important part of the McMurdo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) is monitoring of spatial and temporal patterns, and processes that control phytoplankton production in perennial ice-covered lakes. This dataset addresses this core area of research and quantifies carbon production at specific depths in McMurdo Dry Valley lakes.

Core Areas: 

Data set ID: 


Associated Personnel: 


Short name: 



General Methodology

Lake water samples are collected at specific depths with a five-liter Niskin bottle during normal LTER limnological sampling. In a darkened environment, water is decanted through tubing directly from the Niskin bottle into three-150 mL borosilicate glass bottles with Teflon screw cap liners (2-light, 1-dark). Each sample is inoculated with an appropriate volume of 14C bicarbonate (activity of working solution should be between 100-121 uCi mL-1). Sample bottles are attached to a depth-calibrated cable and incubated in situ for 24 hours. At the end of the incubation period, the bottles are removed from the lake and placed in a darkened box for transport to the field lab. Each sample bottle is filtered through a 25 mm Whatman GF/F filter, and placed at the bottom of a 20 mL scintillation vial (organic matter up). 0.5 mL of 3N HCl is pipetted into each vial and dried slowly on a heating block (60C) in a fume hood. Once the filters are dry, the scintillation vials are recapped and stored until scintillation counting. 10 mL of Cytoscint cocktail is added to each vial and counted on a calibrated 14C liquid scintillation counter. Primary production (ug C L-1 d-1) is calculated using the following equation:

PPR = (DPML - DPMD) a * b alpha * t

where DPML is the average dpm of the light bottles, DPMD is the dpm of the dark bottle, a is the concentration of dissolved inorganic carbon at the respective depth, b is a constant (1.06) to adjust for isotopic discrimination of 14C radiolabeled carbon, alpha is the total dpm of 14C added to the sample, and t is the incubation period. PAR is measured at one depth during primary production experiments.

See the "Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) logged during PPR experiments" dataset for these measurements as well as notes about the weather during PPR experiments. 

Notes on PPR 2006-2007 season data and methodology The IRGA malfunctioned during the 0607 season yielding DIC data that were highly suspect. Alkalinity titrations were done according to standard methods and DIC was estimated based on Wetzel R.G. and G.E. Likens. 1991. Limnological Analyses. 2nd Edition. Springer-Verlag New York Inc. pp. 111-118. Note that hydrogen acceptors other than the carbonate system exist in the lakes yielding an overestimate of DIC. Hence PPR data at depths of high ionic strength (deeper depths) which used DIC values obtained from alkalinity may be overestimated. We also computed average DIC values from the 05-06 and 07-08 seasons. DIC data changes relatively little over time; A paired t-test revealed that there was no significant difference between DIC for these 2 years (p>0.05). We report in the database PPR data calculated using DIC values computed from alkalinity titrations, and provide a link in the metadata to PPR data calculated using DIC values computed from averages of 05-06 and 07-08 DIC. The file containing PPR values calculated using DIC values computed from the average of previous and next season DIC values can be found in the following link:

Data sources: 



On 2015, data and metadata were moved to the DEIMS system.

 Data from this table was submitted to INSTAAR by John Priscu's team at Montana State University. The raw data files listed under 'file name' are the names of the original files submitted. The 1993/94 and 1994/95 datasets are Microsoft Excel version 6.0 files, and the 1995/96, 1996/97 and 1997/98 datasets are ascii text files. Upon arrival at INSTAAR, the data manager fine-tuned the location codes and limno runs to match those provided in the "locations, dates, codes for lake chemistry, biology samples" file. The file was imported into Microsoft Access on INSTAAR's Unix system, and can currently be found there. The file was then exported in ascii, comma delimited text and MS-DOS text (table layout) on the MCM LTER web site. Both of these files are linked to this web page above. Information for the metadata was obtained from the Metappr9697.rtf file. The file was called up using Microsoft Word version 6.0. Text from this file was used to create this page in html format.

Additional information: 

If the dpm for the dark bottle was higher than the average dpm of the light bottles then primary production was reported as zero. Incubation times are usually 0700 hours local time to 0700 hours the following day.


Subscribe to RSS - production