This research represents a big step forward in assessing the health of large lakes such as Lake Geneva, which provides ecosystem services and some of the drinking water used by the surrounding population. The LéXPLORE research platform has been a pioneer in this type of continuous monitoring since it entered service in February 2019. The floating laboratory, covering 100 square meters, brings together scientists from EPFL, the University of Lausanne, the University of Geneva, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), and the Alpine Research Center on Trophic Networks and Limnic Ecosystems (a collaboration between the Université Savoie Mont Blanc and INRAE, the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment in Thonon-les Bains, France). At their disposal are more than 100 sensors used to gather data on the lake.
“Our research demonstrates how important it is to continuously monitor large lakes so that we can identify the ongoing impact of climate change on lake behavior,” explains Fernández Castro. “It also shows that, because of the crucial role played by wind energy in turbulent mixing, it’s not enough to just measure the lake’s temperature over the year. To better understand the effects of climate change, you have to monitor the lake’s movements at the macro and micro scales, as we have done in this study.” According to Fernández Castro, this study proves that climate change will affect turbulent mixing in the lake over the long term. The exact extent of that impact, however, is anybody’s guess.