A Multi-Element Sediment Record of Hydrological and Environmental Changes from Lake Erie since 1800

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Journal of Paleolimnology


Concentrations of aluminum, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, potassium, selenium, sodium, tin, titanium, vanadium, and zinc were measured in a surface sediment core from the Sandusky basin of Lake Erie to detail the history of hydrological and environmental changes back to 1800. The results from hierarchical cluster and principal component analyses revealed four elemental groups. All the trace elements clustering with aluminum, iron, and manganese in Group I were enriched due to increased inputs from anthropogenic sources. The two conservative elements sodium and potassium clustering in Group II showed patterns of changes like those of water-level fluctuations. The two carbonate elements calcium and magnesium clustering in Group III showed intriguing but complex carbonate biogeochemistry associated with biogenic production, organic acid-induced dissolution and dilution by organic and aluminosilicate materials. The terrigenous element titanium in Group IV experienced two stages of depletion from increased organic fluxes in the 1820s and 1950s. Following the enactments of stringent regulations in the early 1970s, many of these elemental inputs have reduced considerably. But the concurrent reductions in the Sandusky basin were much slower than previously thought. Large increases in inputs from local storages (internal loading) were required to account for the slow reductions. The increased internal loading was caused by augmented organic materials from accelerated eutrophication which facilitated the transfer, transport, and cycling of many trace metals. This work has implications in ongoing research efforts to tackle the eutrophication problem because the complex ecosystem including the internal loading has changed considerably over the past two centuries.


This work was carried out with support from a Faculty Research Development award from Cleveland State University, a research award from the US National Science Foundation (EAR-0902895), and a research award from the Ohio Sea Grant College Program (60053687).