Revisiting the limnology of Lake Río Cuarto, Costa Rica, thirty-five years later
Lake Río Cuarto is a meromictic lake at low elevation in the North of Costa Rica. It offers an opportunity to compare its present state with the condition it had when first studied in the late 1970’s and occasional samplings since then. This comparison expects to identify changes that could be attributed to incipient effects of global climate change. We studied the limnology and conditions of its drainage area for three years (2013-2016) to compare with previous data. Vertical profiles of temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, chlorophyll a, dissolved H2S were performed several times per year, for a total of 22 samplings. Aerial photographs taken since 1950 were analyzed to describe land use changes. The lake had a shallow Secchi depth (< 5 m) at all times. It was stratified on all occasions, with a thermocline that fluctuated between 10 and 20 m. It has a monimolimnion, with a chemocline at 14 to 22 m. Below the chemocline it was always anoxic, and during annual partial mixing events in the mixolimnion, oxygen levels decreased compared to stratified periods. There was a continuous presence of H2S from 20 m downwards, with annual fluctuations, being lower during partial mixing events. A peak in chlorophyll was detected on all occasions just below the thermocline. Land use around the lake hasn’t changed much since 1952, when only a rim of tree cover was left around the steep margins of the lake. The lake has maintained its limnological characteristics, with the only exception that it didn’t cooled down to historical levels. This limited response could be the result of the high relative depth and steep margins of the lake, which prevent the downward distribution of heat and keeps the lake in a meromictic state, preventing its mixing for long periods of time.