Impacts of Eutrophication on Carbon Burial in Freshwater Lakes in an Intensively Agricultural Landscape

Adam J. Heathcote, John A. Downing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


The influence of inland water bodies on the global carbon cycle and the great potential for long-term carbon burial in them is an important component of global limnology. We used paleolimnological methods to estimate changes in carbon burial rates through time in a suite of natural lakes in the US state of Iowa which has watersheds that have been heavily modified over the last 150 years. Our results show increasing carbon burial for all lakes in our study as agriculture intensified. Our estimates of carbon burial rates, before land clearance, are similar to the published worldwide averages for nutrient-poor lakes. In nearly all the cases, burial rates increased to very high levels (up to 200 g C m -2 y -1) following agricultural development. These results support the idea that the increased autochthonous and allochthonous carbon flux, related to anthropogenic change, leads to higher rates of carbon burial. Further, these results imply that the fraction of global carbon buried by lakes will be increasingly important in the future if worldwide trends in anthropogenic eutrophication continue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-70
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • agriculture
  • carbon burial
  • eutrophication
  • global change
  • organic matter
  • paleolimnology
  • sediment

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