Lakes: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780198766735

Warwick F. Vincent
168 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Jan 2018
Very Short Introductions


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  • Introduces limnology (lake science) , and considers its importance to understanding and maintaining lake ecosystems and geography
  • Uses examples from around the world, extending from the tropical regions to the poles, to demonstrate how the current challenges facing lake ecosystem protection, restoration, and management are global in scope
  • Discusses how the fields of Earth sciences, plant and animal ecology, geography, geophysics, and global change science all play a part in our understanding of limnology

From the mysterious depths of Lake Vostok, Antarctica, to tropical floodplain lakes, inland seas, hydro-reservoirs and the variety of waterbodies in our local environment, lakes encompass a huge diversity of shapes, sizes, depths, colours, and even salinities. Often very large and very deep, they sustain important and unique ecosystems which can be hotspots of biodiversity, and are used by humans as sources of drinking water and food, in particular, fish. What is the origin of differences among lakes, and how does that affect the life within them? What are the seasons of a lake, and how do human actions alter lake ecosystems locally, and at a global scale? 

In this Very Short Introductions, Warwick Vincent outlines the essential features of lake environments and their biology, offering an up-to-date view of lake ecosystems. Vincent traces the origins of lake science (limnology) from the seminal work of François Forel on Lake Geneva at the edge of the Swiss Alps, to modern approaches such as environmental sensors, satellite observations, stable isotope analysis, and DNA-based technologies which are used to probe the microbial life support systems that lead from sunlight to fish. Drawing on varied case studies he considers the intimate relationship between humans and lakes, the value of lakes as indicators of environmental change, the impact of pollution,and our urgent need to improve the protection and management of these vitally important living resources via an integrated understanding of their ecology. 


1: Deep waters
2: Sunlight and motion
3: Life support systems
4: Food chains to fish
5: Extreme lakes
6: Lakes and us
Further reading

About the author: 

Warwick F. Vincent, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Département de biologie & Centre d''études nordiques (CEN), Université Laval
Warwick Vincent is professor of biology at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, where he teaches limnology (lake science) and oceanography. He also holds the Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Ecosystem Studies and is former director of the interuniversity Centre for Northern Studies. He is especially known for his work on Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems, and much of his current research is on lakes, rivers, and coastal seas in the Canadian North. His books include Microbial Ecosystems of Antarctica (CUP, 1988) and Polar Lakes and Rivers (OUP, 2008), with Johanna Laybourn-Parry. Dr. Vincent has received several awards and distinctions including the Ramon Margalef Award from the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) for education at all levels, from graduate student training to public outreach. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

"A fast-track insight into lakes, from how they're formed to a hit list of 'extreme lakes' in unusual places. Packed with facts but not (ahem) a dry read." - Sarah Barrell, National Geographic Traveller

"Does an excellent job at showing how biology, chemistry and physics are inextricably linked and necessary to understand lakes. Overall, this short book provides an excellent and lucid introduction to the beauty and complexity of lakes." - Yves Prairie, UNESCO Chair in Global Environmental Change

"This book is a sparkling gem! It is a must-read not only for novices intrigued by freshwaters but also academics teaching limnology (study of inland waters) and university students interested in the subject." - Marianne Moore, Frost Professor Emerita in Environmental Science, Wellesley College.

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