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ASLO 2016 John H. Martin Award to “Carbon dioxide supersaturation in the surface waters of lakes” by Jonathan Cole and coauthors Nina Caraco, George Kling and Tim Kratz

Accepted by Jon Cole on behalf of the authors

The John H. Martin Award recognizes a paper in aquatic sciences that is judged to have had a high impact on subsequent research in the field. The 2016 Martin Award is for “Carbon dioxide supersaturation in the surface waters of lakes” by Jonathan Cole, Nina Caraco, George Kling and Tim Kratz. Cole et al (1994) documented that lakes are often supersaturated with CO2 and focused attention on inland waters as sources of carbon to the atmosphere. The award will be presented at the ASLO 2016 Summer Meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 5-10, 2016.

Prior to the Cole et al. paper, research on dissolved inorganic carbon in inland waters was typically limited to studies of eutrophication or acidification. These foci, however, diverted attention from the broader question of the relative balance of carbon dioxide in waters. In an analysis of 1835 lakes distributed around the globe, Cole et al. provided overwhelming evidence that carbon dioxide was well above atmospheric partial pressures (supersaturated) in the vast majority of locations, indicating that lakes are sources, rather than sinks, of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Like much original work, the Cole et al. paper was not without controversy. The paper has stood the test of time, however, with subsequent observations from many limnological research teams affirming the basic finding. Researchers now accept lakes as places where carbon in both organic and inorganic forms is transformed and, in part, transferred to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Studies now investigate how inland water bodies process carbon of both terrestrial and aquatic origin and contribute to net carbon balances at regional and global scales. Cole et al. reshaped how researchers think about inland water carbon cycling.

Cole et al.’s paper has been cited 562 times (Web of Science searched October 15, 2015). The annual number of citations has remained relatively high at about 40 or more citations per year, a testament to the paper’s enduring influence over 20 years after publication. “This paper transformed our thinking about lake ecosystem dynamics by making clear the key role of external subsidies in lake carbon metabolism. It also has led to a re-awakening of appreciation among global change scientists for the essential role of inland waters in global carbon cycle." said ASLO President Jim Elser.

Citation: Cole, J.J., Caraco, N. F., Kling, G.W., and Kratz, T.K., 1994, Carbon dioxide supersaturation in the surface waters of lakes. Science 265: 1568-1570.