Geochemical analysis of the varved (annually laminated) sediments of a small, deep urban lake in east-central Minnesota shows that some water-quality and watershed indicators are approaching prehistoric (pre-1850s) values after an excursion to anomalous levels during the 1920s through 1950s. This high-resolution paleolimnological information (annually resolved for most of the 20th century), including varve thickness measurements on a digital image, carbon stable isotopic composition of organic matter, and sedimentary component quantification, provides historical perspective to lake managers planning remedial measures with reference to the "natural" state of the lake, especially in regard to the perception that water quality has declined only in recent decades (i.e., in the late 20th century). The lake is at present eutrophic and oligomictic, with oxygen-depleted bottom waters enriched in dissolved solids relative to surface waters; an alum treatment has contributed to the problem of persistent stratification at the same time as it has reduced phosphorus and increased transparency in lake surface waters. The sedimentary record shows the lake's strong response to agricultural, recreational, and urban development in the watershed, gradual improvement beginning at the time of sanitary sewer installation in the 1960s, and only a minor additional response to a concerted remediation effort in the mid-1980s to 1990s. Indices of terrestrial inputs and algal productivity show evidence of a lake that was at its most heavily impacted during the mid-20th century, and which has improved in some respects since the 1960s.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a USGS-Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) grant to the author and Emi Ito. Dan Engstrom provided 210Pb dating results and interpretation. NSF-REU summer intern Aimee Wendt assisted with field and laboratory work. The Minnesota Historical Society, the Roseville Historical Society, and the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities provided considerable background information. Water chemistry data were drawn from Minnesota
Pollution Control Agency Electronic Data Access. The Lake McCarrons Neighborhood Association and its members, and the Capitol Region Watershed District have been supportive and informative, and helped to focus my presentation of this material. Jason Curtis performed the organic carbon isotopic measurements. Herb Wright, Tom Johnson, Walt Dean, Dan Engstrom, and Paul Glaser provided helpful comments on an earlier draft. This research would have been impossible without the infrastructure of the Limnological Research Center LacCore Facility (funded by NSF and the University of Minnesota) and the inspiration of Kerry Kelts. This is LRC Contribution #08-01.
- alum treatment
- bathing beach
- carbon stable isotopes
- detention pond
- dissolved sulfate
- urban lake
- varved sediments