The variability in surface water chemistry within and between aquatic ecosystems is regulated by many factors operating at several spatial and temporal scales. The importance of geographic, regional-, and localscale factors as drivers of the natural variability of three water chemistry variables representing buffering capacity and the importance of weathering (acid neutralizing capacity, ANC), nutrient concentration (total phosphorus, TP), and importance of allochthonous inputs (total organic carbon, TOC) were studied in boreal streams and lakes using a method of variance decomposition. Partial redundancy analysis (pRDA) of ANC, TP, and TOC and 38 environmental variables in 361 lakes and 390 streams showed the importance of the interaction between geographic position and regional-scale variables. Geographic position and regional-scale factors combined explained 15.3% (streams) and 10.6% (lakes) of the variation in ANC, TP, and TOC. The unique variance explained by geographic, regional, and local-scale variables alone was < 10%. The largest amount of variance was explained by the pure effect of regional-scale variables (9.9% for streams and 7.8% for lakes), followed by local-scale variables (2.9% and 5.8%) and geographic position (1.8% and 3.7%). The combined effect of geographic position, regional-, and local-scale variables accounted for between 30.3% (lakes) and 39.9% (streams) of the variance in surface water chemistry. These findings lend support to the conjecture that lakes and streams are intimately linked to their catchments and have important implications regarding conservation and restoration (management) endeavors.
Keywords: ANC - Total phosphorus - TOC – Partial RDA - Variation partitioning - Spatial scale - Lentic - Lotic - Geographic position