Effects of natural factors (drought and forest fire), and experimental perturbations (fertilization and acidification) on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and ratios to other nutrients in lakes of the Experimental Lakes Area are examined using data obtained over a period of 20 years. DOC concentration, and the ratio of dissolved iron to DOC in lakes of the area were strongly correlated with the relative size of the catchment to the lake. DOC in many lakes of the area declined over 20 years, due to increased water residence times caused by increasing average temperature and decreasing precipitation. Inexplicably, Lake 382 was an exception to this general observation. Acidification of Lake 302S to below pH 5.0 also caused DOC to decrease. The lesser acidification of Lake 223 (min. pH 5.0) did not significantly affect DOC. Experimental acidification of a small peatland also caused a temporary decline in DOC concentrations in bog pools. Changes in DOC appear to affect the availability of mercury for methylation. Addition of aluminum to a small acidic lake caused a two-fold decline in DOC. Fertilization of Lake 227 caused a considerable increase in DOC, and in ratios of DOC to other carbon fractions. New stable ratios did not occur for a decade after fertilization began. Lake 226N, fertilized at a lower rate, showed similar but less pronounced increases in DOC, but the experiment was terminated after only eight years. Phosphorus fertilization caused a dramatic increase in the lability of the DOC pool in Lake 226N, where the autochthonous carbon pool was labelled with DI14C. A large increase in autochthonous production of DOC and increased microbial utilization of allochthonous DOC appear to have occurred. DOC concentrations in streams were higher after drought, but concentrations were unrelated to flow volume during wet periods. Due to lower streamflows in drought years, annual yields of DOC from streams were unaffected by drought. Mesocosm experiments showed that DOC's primary effect on iron is to inhibit sedimentation, possibly by suppressing flocculation reactions that are known to control the cycles of many metals. The changes in DOC in lakes brought about by changes in water renewal, acidification, or other perturbations can have major effects on the cycles of metals, lake transparency, and phytoplankton production and standing crop.