Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Ecology and extent of freshwater browning - what we know and what should be studied next in the context of global change.

Abstract

Water browning or brownification refers to increasing water color, often related to increasing dissolved organic matter (DOM) and carbon (DOC) content in freshwaters. Browning has been recognized as a significant physicochemical phenomenon altering boreal lakes, but our understanding of its ecological consequences in different freshwater habitats and regions is limited. Here, we review the consequences of browning on different freshwater habitats, food webs and aquatic-terrestrial habitat coupling. We examine global trends of browning and DOM/DOC, and the use of remote sensing as a tool to investigate browning from local to global scales. Studies have focused on lakes and rivers while seldom addressing effects at the catchment scale. Other freshwater habitats such as small and temporary waterbodies have been overlooked, making the study of the entire network of the catchment incomplete. While past research investigated the response of primary producers, aquatic invertebrates and fishes, the effects of browning on macrophytes, invasive species, and food webs have been understudied. Research has focused on freshwater habitats without considering the fluxes between aquatic and terrestrial habitats. We highlight the importance of understanding how the changes in one habitat may cascade to another. Browning is a broader phenomenon than the heretofore concentration on the boreal region. Overall, we propose that future studies improve the ecological understanding of browning through the following research actions: (1) increasing our knowledge of ecological processes of browning in other wetland types than lakes and rivers, (2) assessing the impact of browning on aquatic food webs at multiple scales, (3) examining the effects of browning on aquatic-terrestrial habitat coupling, (4) expanding our knowledge of browning from the local to global scale, and (5) using remote sensing to examine browning and its ecological consequences.