Many freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems across the world may have undergone an ecosystem regime change due to a combination of rising anthropogenic disturbances and regional climate change. Such a change in aquatic ecosystems is commonly seen as shifts in algal species. But considerably less detail is known about the eutrophication history in terms of changes in algal productivity, particularly for a large lake with a great deal of spatial variability. Here we present an analysis of trace metals (Cu, Ni, Cd, and Pb) on a sediment core recovered from Lake Erie, off the Vermilion coast of northern Ohio, USA, to reconstruct the eutrophication history of the lake over the past 210 years. Following a slow eutrophication during European settlement, Lake Erie experienced a period of accelerated eutrophication, leading to an ecosystem regime transition into a eutrophic lake state in 1950. Our results suggested that the lake's biological productivity has ever since maintained fairly high even though a significant input reduction was realized from rigorous nutrient abatements that began as early as in 1969. This work underscored the role of in-lake biogeochemical cycling in nutrient dynamics of this already eutrophic lake.
Yuan F, Depew R, Soltis-Muth C. 2014. Ecosystem regime change inferred from the distribution of trace metals in Lake Erie sediments. Scientific Reports. 4:7265.