Unraveling long-term changes in lake color based on optical properties of lake sediment

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Abstract

A number of boreal surface waters have become browner over the last two decades. Recovery from acid rain is regarded as an important driver for this lake color increase, indicating a general browner lake color in preindustrial times. However, the lack of long-term monitoring data makes it challenging to unravel historical changes in lake color. In this study, we estimated long-term development in lake color (1800 to 2015) based on the optical properties of alkaline extractable dissolved organic matter (DOM) from sediment using UV–Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy. We found that the present lake color (2015) was significantly browner (four times higher in absorption coefficient) than for the period from 1800 to 1915 when lake color was at a lower and more stable level. Fluorescence excitation–emission matrices combined with parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC) indicate that terrestrially derived DOM was the main source of sediment DOM. However, the importance of in-lake source of DOM has significantly increased with time. The long-term trend in DOM burial was not consistent with the anthropogenic sulfur (S) deposition pattern. However, along with the increased sediment DOM, there has been increased precipitation, temperature and forest growth with time, which affect the production and degradation of DOM. Even though S deposition might have delayed the runoff of terrestrial DOM for a certain period, it comes in addition to other color-regulating factors. Thus, there is no single driver for the observed lake browning, but rather an interplay between different drivers varying in strength over time, such as afforestation, changes in areal use, declined S deposition, and increased temperature and precipitation.

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Xiao, Y., Rohrlack, T., & Riise, G. (2020). Unraveling long-term changes in lake color based on optical properties of lake sediment. Science of the Total Environment, 699. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134388

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