Emerging global role of small lakes and ponds: Little things mean a lot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

396 Scopus citations


Until recently, small continental waters have been completely ignored in virtually all global processes and cycles. This has resulted from the neglect of these systems and processes by ecologists and the assumption that ecosystems with a small areal extent cannot play a major role in global processes. Recent inventories based on modern geographical and mathematical approaches have shown that continental waters occupy nearly twice as much area as was previously believed. Further, these inventories have shown that small lakes and ponds dominate the areal extent of continental waters, correcting a centurylong misconception that large lakes are most important. The global importance of any ecosystem type in a process or cycle is the product of the areal extent and the intensity of the process in those ecosystems. Several analyses have shown the disproportionately great intensity of many processes in small aquatic ecosystems, indicating that they play an unexpectedly major role in global cycles. Assessments of the global carbon cycle underscore the need for aquatic scientists to view their work on a global scale in order to respond to the Earth's most pressing environmental problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-24
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon
  • Global limnology
  • Lake size
  • Lakes
  • Ponds
  • Sequestration


Dive into the research topics of 'Emerging global role of small lakes and ponds: Little things mean a lot'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this