The photosynthetic activity of phytoplankton (in pelagial) and macrophytes (in littoral) is considered to be one of the main factors affecting the carbon cycle in lakes. This concerns in particular hardwater ecosystems, where most of the carbon is available in the form of Ca- or Mg-bicarbonates. In such ecosystems charophytes (macroscopic green algae, forming dense meadows) are regarded as the most effective carbonate producer due to the HCO3 — utilization and the formation of thick CaCO3 encrustations.
Calcium carbonate and biomass production of charophytes were studied in a small and shallow charophyte-dominated Lake Jasne (Western Poland). Fresh and dry weight of plants, percentage contribution of calcium carbonate and production of CaCO3 per 1 m2 were studied at three depths (1, 3 and 5 m) in three sample sites (each sampled area — 0.04 m2). Additionally, physical-chemical parameters of water samples were studied. It was found that the dry weight of charophytes and the values of calcium carbonate were similar for all sites but varied for depth of sampling. The dry weight exceeded 2000 g m-2 (average 1165 g m-2) at the most shallow sample sites. CaCO3 encrustations constituted from 39.5% at the depth of 5m, to over 82% of the charophyte dry weight at the depth of 1m. The maximum and average values of carbonates precipitated by charophytes were 1696 g m-2 and 891 g m-2, respectively, and exceeded results reported so far. The results of physical-chemical analyses revealed no statistically significant differences between all the sample sites. Nevertheless, distinct correlations were found between dry weight of charophytes, carbonates precipitated by charophytes and some physical-chemical properties of water from the sample sites.
The results highlight the habitat engineering role of charophytes, evidenced in particular by great amounts of biomass influencing sedimentary processes and biogeochemical cycle within littoral zone.