The conventional view of lakes is that they are active (organisms grow, nutrients cycle) during ice-free periods, and are inactive when covered by ice. This is a convenient worldview to have, as most scientists are busy teaching courses and shy away from the logistically difficult field conditions winter presents (myself included). However, the notion that lakes are essentially “on hold” during winter months may be due more to a lack of data on under-ice processes rather than a lack of interesting biology and biogeochemistry occurring under the ice.
I’ve been working an interdisciplinary group of microbiologists, physical limnologists (scientists who study the physics of lakes), and ecologists to synthesize what is known about microorganisms under ice. We recently finished writing a paper that synthesizes existing research to show that winter may actually be important for microorganisms and what occurs in lakes during the rest of the year.
As the duration of ice cover has begun to decrease in many parts of the world, it is important to continue research aimed at better understanding under ice dynamics. For more information, here is an open access link to our paper: http://aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_58/issue_6/1998.pdf