Paleolimnology of a fluvial lake downstream of Lake Superior and the industrialized region of Sault Saint Marie

Euan D. Reavie, John A. Robbins, Eugene F. Stoermer, Marianne S.V. Douglas, Gail E. Emmert, Nancy R. Morehead, Alena Mudroch

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A paleolimnological study was undertaken to describe the past environment of the St. Mary's River downstream of Lake Superior. Two sediment cores were obtained from the deepest part of Lake George, a fluvial lake in the river system. Rigorous analyses of radionuclides (210Pb, 226Ra, and 137Cs) and chemical properties provided an accurate sediment chronology. More than 450 diatom species from 47 genera were identified. Diatom and geochemical data indicated gradual environmental change in response to anthropogenic activities, including logging, hydrologic manipulation, and steel, leather, and paper industries. A decline in water quality occurred gradually from the late 1800s through the 20th century in response to human activities, as was apparent from an increase in eutrophic-planktonic diatom taxa. A decline in benthic taxa and an increase in contaminant metals were also contemporaneous with impacts during the 20th century. Subfossil diatoms were similar to those recorded in paleolimnological investigations from the Great Lakes. However, diatom profiles indicate that the algal supply from upstream Lake Superior has been minimal and that the cores mainly reflect environmental characteristics of the near-upstream environment. Despite stochastic sedimentary regimes and complex habitats in the lotic system, this study reinforces the value of river paleolimnology at carefully selected sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2586-2608
Number of pages23
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005

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