, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 129-143
Date: 27 Sep 2012

A 100-year record of changes in organic matter characteristics and productivity in Lake Bhimtal in the Kumaon Himalaya, NW India

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Sediment variables total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN), total sulfur (TS), as well as their accumulation rates and atomic ratios (C/N and C/S), were studied along with stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S), and specific biomarkers (n-alkanes and pigments) in a 35-cm-long sediment core from Lake Bhimtal, NW India. The average sedimentation rate is 3.6 mm year−1, and the core represents a provisional record of ~100 years of sedimentation history. Bulk elemental records and their ratios indicate that sediment organic matter (OM) is derived primarily from algae. In-lake productivity increased sharply over the last two decades, consistent with paleoproductivity reconstructions from other lakes in the area. An up-core decrease in δ13C values, despite other evidence for an increase in lake productivity, implies that multiple biogeochemical processes (e.g. external input of sewage or uptake of isotopically depleted CO2 as a result of fossil fuel burning) influence the C isotope record in the lake. The δ15N values (−0.2 to −3.9 ‰) reflect the presence of N-fixing cyanobacteria, and an increase in lake productivity. The δ34S profile shows enrichment of up to 5.6 ‰, and suggests that sulfate reduction occurred in these anoxic sediments. Increases in total n-alkane concentrations and their specific ratios, such as the Carbon Preference Index (CPI) and Terrestrial Aquatic Ratio (TAR), imply in-lake algal production. Likewise, pigments indicate an up-core increase in total concentration and dominance of cyanobacteria over other phytoplankton. Geochemical trends indicate a recent increase in the lake’s trophic state as a result of human-induced changes in the catchment. The study highlights the vulnerability of mountain lakes in the Himalayan region to both natural and anthropogenic processes, and the difficulties associated with reversing trophic state and ecological changes.