Paleolimnology of the Lake of the Woods southern basin: continued water quality degradation despite lower nutrient influx

Euan D. Reavie, Mark B. Edlund, Norman A. Andresen, Daniel R. Engstrom, Peter R. Leavitt, Shawn Schottler, Meijun Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Reavie ED, Edlund MB, Andresen NA, Engstrom DR, Leavitt PR, Schottler S, Cai M. 2017. Paleolimnology of the Lake of the Woods southern basin: continued water quality degradation despite lower nutrient influx. Lake Reserv Manage. 33:369–385. Despite decades of reduced nutrient inputs, Lake of the Woods, a large, shallow boreal lake on the US-Canadian border, shows little evidence of water quality improvements in the pelagic system. Here we analyzed sediments from 6 sites in the southern basin for diverse biogeochemical (loss-on-ignition, biogenic silica, pigments) and microfossil (diatoms, chrysophytes) remains to reconstruct the environmental history of the lake. Our objectives were to quantify the magnitude and direction of historical trophic change and evaluate reasons for an apparent lack of basin recovery following documented nutrient diversion. Evidence came from fossil indicator profiles and comparisons of these long-term trends with historical land use and monitoring data. Results indicate major changes in algal communities during and following peak nutrient loading in the mid-20th century as well as more recent increases in colonial cyanobacteria and high-nutrient diatom taxa. Combined, fossil indicators reflect an anthropogenically enriched system that has undergone substantial ecological change, particularly since ∼1980, due to multiple drivers. Physical changes in lake thermal regime resulting from climate warming may be exacerbating internal phosphorus release from sediments, thereby lowering nitrogen:phosphorus ratios and enhancing cyanobacterial abundance. These drivers of lake condition in the lake may apply to other large shallow lakes that exhibit only limited biological recovery from reduced external nutrient loading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
JournalLake and Reservoir Management
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017

Keywords

  • Cyanobacteria
  • Lake of the Woods
  • diatoms
  • eutrophication
  • nutrient loading
  • paleolimnology
  • phosphorus
  • pigments

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