Eutrophication History of Small Shallow Lakes in Estonia: Evidence from Multiproxy Analysis of Lake Sediments
Abstract:Human activities have impacted aquatic systems through the release of contaminants and the regulation of surface and groundwater. Although environmental monitoring has been essential in detecting eutrophication, biodiversity loss or water quality deterioration, monitoring activities are limited in time and are thus not sufficient in their scope to identify causality and thresholds. Paleolimnological studies increasingly show that the response of lakes to climatic and human influences is complex, multidimensional, and often indirectly mediated through watershed processes. In this study we examine the history of eutrophication processes in small lakes in Estonia using the multi-proxy analysis of sediment.
Study sites represent lakes with different anthropogenic stressors: urbanisation and recreational use, run-off from an oil shale mine, and fish-kills and liming measures. We have used diverse analytical methods, such as elemental analysis, stable isotopes, fossil pigments, diatoms and Cladocera remains. The information derived from sedimentary indicators broadly agrees with the historical evidence of eutrophication and pollution. Moreover, the sediment records are indispensable for identifying additional issues such as: 1) earlier onset of cultural eutrophication; 2) the significant impact of catchment erosion on the deterioration of lake quality, particularly cyanobacterial blooms; and 3) changes in sedimentation processes with significance for internal biogeochemical cycling of nutrients. Importantly, the integration of several methods has significantly improved interpretation of sedimentary data and elucidated the different strengths of various indicator types. The project findings prove to be highly relevant for both the prediction of the ecological responses of lakes to different anthropogenic impacts and the establishment of reasonable reference target conditions in restoration schemes, as well as for methodological improvements of the sediment analysis.