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Historically, limnological and paleolimnological research has focused on large and typically deep lakes but in the last two decades there has been a growing interest in smaller and shallower water bodies. Shallow lakes are justifiably considered as a separate lake type, distinguished physically from deeper waters by the fact that they are permanently mixed (polymictic) with a consequent lack of stratification of temperature or oxygen and with increased potential for nutrient recycling and redistribution of seston by physical water circulation patterns (Carrick et al., 1994). Whilst this is a useful distinction, there is no single definition of a shallow lake (Padisák & Reynolds, 2003). Scheffer (1998), in his classic text book, acknowledged a fundamental difference in the behavior, ecological functioning, and biotic communities of shallow waters and arbitrarily selected a mean depth of less than 3 m to define shallowness. For the purposes of this chapter we have chosen to adopt this definition and thereby to focus on lakes where, under a favorable light climate, benthic algae and/or rooted submerged macrophytes may occupy the majority of the lakebed (see also Jeppesen et al., 1997). Under enriched conditions, however, the mechanisms that stabilize the macrophyte communities of shallow lakes may often break down and a transition to pelagic production with phytoplankton dominance occurs (Scheffer et al., 1993; Vadeboncoeur et al., 2003). Importantly, because of these characteristics, shallow lakes are, for the most part, more vulnerable to a given pollutant load than large lakes.
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