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Long-term water quality changes in a multiple-stressor system: a diatom-based paleolimnological study of Lake Simcoe (Ontario, Canada)

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Diatom-based paleolimnological techniques were used to assess long-term changes in the water quality of Lake Simcoe (Ontario, Canada) using 210Pb-dated sediment cores from four sites across the lake. Modest lake-wide shifts in diatom community composition occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, suggesting that early cultural disturbances (e.g., land clearance and canal construction) had relatively minor effects on Lake Simcoe water quality. However, starting in the 1930s, phosphorus loading to the lake increased, which was closely tracked by increases in diatom taxa indicative of eutrophic conditions. The most pronounced lake-wide shift in diatom assemblages occurred in the mid- to late 20th century, the nature and timing of which strongly suggested a response to regional climate warming. An additional and marked lake-wide shift in diatom assemblages occurred in the mid-1990s, coinciding with the invasion of dreissenid mussels in Lake Simcoe. Our results indicate that Lake Simcoe water quality has been affected by the interaction of numerous environmental stressors over the past two centuries, the complexity of which has been amplified by recent warming.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL), Department of Biology, Queen’s University, 116 Barrie Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada. 2: Department of Biology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada.

Publication date: 2012-01-16

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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