Reservoir sediments are used cautiously in paleolimnological studies because of dating uncertainties, possible sediment disturbances and even concerns that indicators of trophic status may behave differently in reservoirs as opposed to natural lakes. We measured loss on ignition (LOI), carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N), diatom abundance, total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), TN:TP ratio, and carbon and nitrogen isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) in an 83-cm sediment core to track recent trophic status changes in Beaver Reservoir, Northwest Arkansas, USA. Measurements showed that LOI, TN, TP and diatom abundance increased significantly from the bottom to the top of the core (p < 0.001). The C:N ratio and δ13C indicated a predominantly algal source for organic matter in the sediments. Increases in TN and TP were positively correlated with human population growth (p < 0.01) and the TN:TP ratio recorded a shift from phosphorus to nitrogen limitation around 1990. This shift may have encouraged cyanobacterial growth that caused episodes of taste and odor problems in the reservoir. This study suggests that despite concerns about sediment dating and disturbance, reservoir sediments can provide valuable information on past water quality changes.
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Acknowledgments We thank the Beaver Water District for assistance with fieldwork, and Anna Nottemeir. We also thank Troy Munhofen and Lanayah Turley, NSF-funded REU students who assisted with stable isotope measurements during the summer of 2009. Funding for this project was provided by the Arkansas Water Resource Center, Beaver Water District and a USGS 104B Grant.
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- Water quality