, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 405-421
Date: 17 Sep 2009

Geochemical processes in a Mediterranean Lake: a high-resolution study of the last 4,000 years in Zoñar Lake, southern Spain

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High-resolution geochemical analysis of a 6-m-long sediment core from Zoñar Lake, southern Spain, provides a detailed characterization of major changes in lake and watershed processes during the last 4,000 years. Geochemical variables were used as paleolimnological indicators and complement Zoñar Lakes’s paleoenvironmental reconstruction based on sedimentological and biological proxies, which define periods of increasing allochthonous input to the lake and periods of dominant autochthonous sedimentation. Chemical ratios identify periods of endogenic carbonate formation (higher Ca/Al, Sr/Al and Ba/Al ratios), evaporite precipitation (higher S/Al, Sr/Al ratios), and anoxic conditions (higher Mo/Al, U/Th ratios and Eu anomaly). Higher productivity is marked by elevated organic carbon content and carbonate precipitation (Mg/Ca). Hydrological reconstruction for Zoñar Lake was based on sedimentological, mineralogical and biological proxies, and shows that lower lake levels are characterized by Sr-rich sediments (a brackish lake with aragonite) and S-rich sediments (a saline lake with gypsum), while higher lake levels are characterized by sediments enriched in elements associated with alumino-silicates (Al, K, Ti, Fe, trace and rare earth elements), reflecting fresher conditions. Geochemical indicators also mark periods of higher detrital input to the lake related to human activity in the watershed: (1) during the Iberian Roman Humid Period (650 BC–AD 300), around the onset of the Little Ice Age (AD 1400), during the relatively drier Post-Roman and Middle Ages (AD 800–1400), and over the last 50 years, due to mechanized farming practices. Heavy metal enrichment in the sediments (Cu and Ni) suggests intensification of human activities during the Iberian Roman Period, and the use of fertilizers during the last 50 years.