Regional heterogeneity and the effects of land use and climate on 20 lakes in the big woods region of Minnesota

Charles E. Umbanhowar, Philip Camill, Jeffrey A. Dorale

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10 Scopus citations


Few studies have assessed the relative importance of landscape, land use history, climate, and regional heterogeneity on lake ecosystem processes, despite the likelihood that interactions among these factors must be important for controlling lake dynamics. We used 14 sediment measures from 20 lake cores in a climatically sensitive region of the prairie-forest border in southern Minnesota to (1) assess relationships between modern lake productivity (Carlson's Trophic State Index [TSI]), modern land-use, catchment, and lake morphometry, and (2) contrast regional responses to climatic transitions from the 'Medieval Climatic Anomaly'(1000-1350) to the 'Little Ice Age' (1350-1800) to 'Modern'(~1980-1996 AD). TSI was significantly positively correlated with modern sedimentation rate, and accumulation rates of organic matter (OM), biogenic silica (BSi), and total phosphorus (TP). TSI was not significantly correlated with "modern" land cover, catchment, or lake morphometry characteristics, but total organic N(N) was negatively correlated with percent cultivation in the catchment area and negatively correlated with δ15N of bulk organic matter in sediment. Regional, among-lake heterogeneity was high over the past 1,000 years, but Little Ice Age (LIA) cooling appeared to result in an approximately 20% decline in OM, BSi and TP accumulation, while warming and cultural eutrophication of the past 150 years corresponded to a 200-400% increase in accumulation rates as well as an 80% increase in carbonates and a small but significant 10% drop in C/N ratios consistent with greater in-lake productivity. Our results indicate that climate does have regional effects on lake ecosystems but that among-lake variability is high, reflecting the importance of local factors and suggesting a need for (1) more explicit definition of what 'regional' means, (2) a focus on degree as well as direction of change, and (3) estimating accumulation rates based on multiple lakes and multiple cores within lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-166
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Big woods region
  • Biogenic silica
  • Ecosystem
  • Little ice age
  • Medieval climatic anomaly
  • Sediment

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • UMB


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