Limnology is the study of lakes, both freshwater and saline, and other inland water bodies such as marshes and rivers. This field of ecology examines the biological, chemical, geological and physical characteristics of aquatic ecosystems.
The study of limnology is critical in helping us to understand the Earth’s freshwater systems. For example, using limnological approaches characteristics of water bodies can be studied including a lake's physical and chemical properties, the food chains present, the levels of pollution and the geochemical cycling of elements such as carbon.
Limnological studies can also examine water bodies at different scales, both at small and large scales. On a smaller scale, these studies treat a water body as an individual aquatic ecosystem and analyze the relationship between the organisms within that ecosystem and the properties of the water. Conversely, on a larger scale, the focus is more towards how a water body interacts with the surrounding environment and analyzing larger-scale environmental issues. For example, on a larger scale, the hydrology of a watershed may be investigated, which is representative of a drainage basin.
Limnological studies utilize a range of methods and techniques to collect data samples. The techniques employed are dependent upon the objective of the study. Some possible approaches include collecting samples of lake water using test tubes or small containers, placing sediment traps in the water and collecting plankton organisms using a net.
Limnology is a multidisciplinary field which blends nicely with other similar areas of study such as paleolimnology and wetland ecology. Furthermore, limnology is valuable when attempting to understand environmental changes in aquatic ecosystems and community structure, both on a small and large scale.
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