, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 85-97

A sedimentary record of human disturbance from Lake Miragoane, Haiti

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Abstract

Lake Miragoane, Haiti is one of the largest, natural freshwater lakes in the Caribbean (A=7.06 km2, zmax=41.0 m, conductivity = 350 μS cm−1). Lake waters are dominated by calcium and bicarbonate ions. The lake was thermally stratified, and oxygen profiles were clinograde during summer visits in 1983 and 1985. A 72-cm mud-water interface core was taken near the center of the lake and dated with 210Pb. The local 210Pb fallout rate is low (0.09 pCi cm−2 yr−1), about 20% of the global average. Bulk sedimentation rates ranged from 0.008 to 0.030 g cm−2 yr−1 during the past 130 years (0–8 cm depth). Sediment geochemistry and pollen have been analyzed in the topmost 58 cm of the section. Tentative ages were assigned to the core by extrapolation of 210Pb dates. According to this preliminary chronology, the bottom part of the core (58–30 cm) records pre-Columbian sedimentation (1000–500 B.P.) and contains pollen evidence of intact, dry and mesic forest. Pre-Columbian deposits are rich in organic matter (x = 30%) and relatively poor in carbonates (x = 15% as CO2). The top 30 cm of the core preserve the record since European contact (500 B.P. to present). Pollen data reveal two episodes of deforestation following European arrival. Consequent soil erosion is documented by a decrease in organic matter content (x = 15%) and an increase in carbonates (x = 27% as CO2). Surficial sediments reflect the widespread deforestation and soil loss that characterize the watershed today.