Geochemical analysis of 210Pb-dated sediment cores from Otisco Lake (New York) combined with analysis of recent land cover change in the watershed revealed the history of land use change, lake management, and industrial pollution since European settlement in the northeastern US. Clearance of forestland for agriculture characterized the early settlement era that was marked in the Otisco Lake sediments by a decline in organic carbon (OC) and OC:N ratios, which indicate a change in the sources of organic matter to the lake. Agricultural land use reached its greatest areal extent in the Otisco watershed around 1900, followed by field abandonment and reforestation over the last century. In the 1920s sediment accumulation rates began to increase coincident with residential development along the lake shore. Nitrogen and organic carbon, which are transported from the watershed, show increased fluxes to the lake in response to this change. Deposition of inorganic carbon increased markedly over a short period from the 1940s to the 1980s, which is consistent with enhanced mobilization of watershed calcium by increased acidic deposition, followed by alkalinization of the lake waters and calcite precipitation. An increase in copper content in the sediments reflects application, since 1942, of the algicide copper sulfate to the lake waters to control algal blooms. This CuSO4 marker confirmed the accuracy of the 210Pb chronology. Atmospheric mercury (Hg) fluxes to the lake were affected by increased sediment transport from the watershed. The maximum Hg peak in the sediment record, however, was dated to the early 1970s and coincides with maximum Hg emissions to the atmosphere in the Great Lakes region.
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Acknowledgments Funding for this study was provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency. We appreciate the help in the field and laboratory of Jacqueline Philippon, Mario Montesdeoca, Jason Dittman, Jill Colman, and Erin Mortenson.
- Pb dating
- Algicide CuSO
- Anthropogenic impacts
- Land-use change
- Sediment cores