Geography & Environment Publications

Paleolimnological Evidence of Change in a Shallow, Hypereutrophic Lake: Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, USA

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Sediment cores were collected from Upper Klamath Lake in October, 1998 and analyzed for 210Pb, 14C, 15N, N, P, C, Ti, Al, diatoms, Pediastrum, and cyanobacterial akinetes. These results were used to reconstruct changes in water quality in Upper Klamath Lake over the last 150 years. The results showed that there was substantial mixing of the upper 10 cm of sediment, representing the previous 20 to 30 years. However, below that, 210Pb activity declined monotonically, allowing reasonable dating for the period from about 1850 to 1970. The sediment accumulation rates (SAR) showed a substantial increase in the 20th century. The increase in SAR corresponded with increases in erosional input from the watershed as represented by the increases in sediment concentrations of Ti and Al. The upper 20 cm of sediment, representing the last 150 years, also showed increases in C, N, P, and 15N. The increases in nutrient concentrations may be affected to various degrees by diagenetic reactions within the sediments, although the changes in concentrations also were marked by changes in the N:P ratio and in a qualitative change in the source of N as reflected in increasing delta15N. The diatoms showed modest changes in the 20th century, with increases in Asterionella formosa, Stephanodiscus hantzschii, and S. parvus. Pediastrum, a green alga, was well-preserved in the sediments and exhibited a sharp decline in relative abundance in the upper sediments. Total cyanobacteria, as represented by preserved akinetes, exhibited only minor changes in the last 1000 years. However, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, a taxon which was formerly not present in the lake 150 years ago, but that now dominates the summer phytoplankton, has shown major increases over the past 100 years. The changes in sediment composition are consistent with activities including timber harvest, drainage of wetlands, and agricultural activities associated with livestock grazing, irrigated cropland, and hydrologic modifications.


Dr. Katrina Moser is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.