The underwater light conditions in the African Great Lakes depend on the complex dynamics of ecological and hydrological forces, and are strongly influenced by local environmental conditions and global biogeochemical cycles. Changes in the optical conditions in these lakes have direct impacts on ecosystem productivity, carbon dynamics and nutrient availability. A central role in the underwater light climate is played by dissolved organic matter which is present in all aquatic ecosystems. The chromophoric fraction of these compounds can mediate ecosystem change through its influence on the attenuation of ultraviolet and PAR radiation, microbial carbon cycling and radiative transfer. In the African Great Lakes, little information is available regarding the dynamics of dissolved organic matter and those sources and sinks which control its presence in the water column. We present an extensive spatial analysis of three major bays on the Kenyan and Ugandan shores of Lake Victoria. We use these data to examine the dynamics of chromophoric dissolved organic matter in different bays and we develop a model to estimate its flow from these bays to the Lake, considering both conservative mixing and photodegradation processes. While some bays release chromophoric dissolved organic matter practically unmodified into the Lake, increased residence time and exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation create conditions where chromophores are lost before entering the open lake.

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