Lake Erie's ecological history reconstructed from the sedimentary record

Gerald V. Sgro, Euan D. Reavie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We evaluated the recent ecological history of Lake Erie from diatoms and geochemistry in sediment cores. Two major transition points in the ecology of the western basin (WB; 1985 and 2008) and central basin (CB; 1935 and 1982) were defined. Changes in abundance of diatom eutrophic indicators and geochemical markers were interpreted as a degradation in water quality after 1935 due to the effects of increased population, agriculture, and industrialization until abatement measures were enacted in the 1970s and 1980s. Diatom indicators suggested modest recovery from eutrophic conditions in Lake Erie, however diatom-inferred total phosphorus suggested that despite abatement efforts total phosphorus was not reduced below pre-impact levels. The effects on diatoms of increased temperature and dissolved silica also became apparent in the 1980s, and in the WB recent shifts were likely caused by increased pollution and recent climatic warming. Based on stratigraphic changes since 1985, the diatom trajectory suggests the phytoplankton of Lake Erie will likely remain in a state of flux for the near future due to a variety of countervailing impacts including unknown effects of mitigation efforts, legacy pollution, climate change, and changing upstream conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-69
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank R. Sterner and the Research Vessel Blue Heron field crews for their help collecting core samples. Sediment dating was supported by D.R. Engstrom and personnel at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station. This research was supported by a grant to E. Reavie from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Cooperative Agreement GL-00E23101-2 . This document has not been subjected to the EPA's required peer and policy review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the view of the Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 International Association for Great Lakes Research.


  • Diatoms
  • Eutrophication
  • Geochemistry
  • Lake Erie
  • Paleolimnology
  • Stressors


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