, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 719-737
Date: 27 Aug 2009

Climate change and human impact at Sacrower See (NE Germany) during the past 13,000 years: a geochemical record

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Abstract

Lacustrine sediments in north-eastern Germany have rarely been used as archives to address the effects of climate change and human impact on both lake ecosystem and landscape evolution for this region. Sacrower See, a hardwater lake located in Brandenburg, provides a unique sediment record covering the past 13,000 years which was used to reconstruct climatic and anthropogenic forcing on lacustrine sedimentation. Time control is provided by 12 AMS 14C dates of terrestrial plant remains, the Laacher See Tephra, and the onset of varve formation in AD 1870 (80 cal. BP). Geochemical (including XRF logging of major elements, CNS analyses as well as δ13Corg and δ15N measurements) and pollen analyses allowed detecting detailed environmental changes in the sediment record. During the Younger Dryas cold phase increased soil erosion and hypolimnetic oxygen depletion enhanced the nutrient supply to the lake water causing eutrophic conditions. The beginning of the Holocene is characterized by large changes in C/N ratios, total sulphur, δ13C of bulk organic matter as well as in K, Si, and Ti, reflecting the response of the lake’s catchment to climatic warming. Reforestation reduced the influx of detrital particles and terrestrial organic matter. The first, rather weak evidence of human impact is documented only in the pollen record at 5,500 cal. BP. However, until 3,200 cal. BP sedimentological and geochemical parameters indicate relatively stable environmental conditions. During periods of intense human impact at around 3,200, 2,800, and 900 cal. BP peaks in Ti and K represent phases of increased soil erosion due to forest clearing during the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Medieval Times, respectively. In general, greater variation is observed in most variables during these perturbations, indicating less stable environmental conditions. The steady rise of biogenic silica accumulation rates during the Holocene reflects an increasing productivity of Sacrower See until diatoms were outcompeted by other algae during the last centuries. The applied multi-proxy approach fosters the interpretation of the sediment record to reveal a consistent picture of environmental change including environmental factors controlling lake ontogeny and the effects of human impact.