Water Quality Research Journal of Canada

Vol. 43 (2/3): 85 - 98 (2008). General issue

An Assessment of Environmental Changes in Three Lakes from King's County (Nova Scotia, Canada) Using Diatom-Based Paleolimnological Techniques

   Joshua R. Thienpont, Brian K. Ginn, Brian F. Cumming, John P. Smol

Paleolimnological approaches using sedimentary diatom assemblages were used to assess water quality changes over the last approximately 200 years in three lakes from King's County, Nova Scotia. In particular, the role of recent shoreline development in accelerating eutrophication in these systems was assessed. Sediment cores collected from each lake were analyzed for their diatom assemblages at approximately 5-year intervals, as determined by 210Pb dating. Analyses showed that each system has changed, but tracked different ecosystem changes. Tupper and George lakes recorded shifts, which are likely primarily related to climatic warming, with diatom assemblages changing from a preindustrial dominance by Aulacoseira spp. to present-day dominance by Cyclotella stelligera. In addition to the recent climatic-related changes, further diatom changes in the Tupper Lake core between approximately 1820 and 1970 were coincident with watershed disturbances (farming, forestry, and construction of hydroelectric power infrastructure). Black River Lake has recorded an increase in diatom-inferred total phosphorus since about 1950, likely due to impoundment of the Black River system for hydroelectric generation and subsequent changes in land runoff. Before-and-after (i.e., top-bottom) sediment analyses of six other lakes from King's County provided further evidence that the region is being influenced by climatic change (decreases in Aulacoseira spp., increases in planktonic diatom taxa), as well as showing other environmental stressors (e.g., acidification). However, we recorded no marked increase in diatom-inferred nutrient levels coincident with shoreline cottage development in any of the nine study lakes. Paleolimnological studies such as these allow lake managers to place the current limnological conditions into a long-term context, and thereby provide important background data for effective lake management.

Nova Scotia, acidification, climate change, diatoms, eutrophication, paleolimnology

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