, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 561-575
Date: 12 Oct 2013

Modification of climate signals by human activities recorded in varved sediments (AD 1608–1942) of Lake Holzmaar (Germany)

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Abstract

Paleolimnological data from varved sediments in Lake Holzmaar (Eifel, Germany) were combined with documentary data on human activities, long-term data from the Historical Climate Database (HISKLID) for Germany and with recent monitoring data to evaluate changes in deposition that arose from climatic and human influences. The sediment data included seasonal layer thickness in an established varve chronology (1608–1942 AD), subannual chemical element counts, and multiannual organic matter data (TOC, TN, δ13Corg), all combined on an annual scale. Indicators for detritus deposition (lithogenic element counts and detritus layers) determined the first principal component (PC1) of the sediment data. This detritus PC1 was compared to the first PCs of the seasonal precipitation and temperature from HISKLID. While no relation was found to precipitation, the correlation with the temperature PC1 determined by spring to fall temperatures was significant. From 1608 to 1870, a positive correlation of the PCs suggests an increase of detritus deposition in the lake center with increasing non-winter temperatures. These may be linked by lake-internal sediment redeposition that increases when the periods of winter stratification become shorter and that of lake circulation longer. The detritus deposition is modulated by external detritus input depending on the intensity of erosion-conducive land use (wood pasture, wood cutting, and rotational slash-and-burn cultivation). Detritus input diminished when land use slowed down with population decrease as the consequence of plague epidemics, warfare and emigration. After 1870, forest regeneration and improving agricultural practices led to a stabilization of the catchment. Erosion and detritus deposition decreased progressively. The negative correlation of detritus deposition with the gradually increasing temperature presumably mimics a cause-effect relation, although a link with decreasing freeze–thaw action is possible. The modernization of agriculture proceeded with manuring and fertilizing, which caused an increase of lake productivity as indicated by summer blooms of diatoms with enhanced nutrient demand, increased δ13Corg values and sulfur concentrations. Within this well established data base we found combinations of criteria that may be used to deduce natural climatic or anthropogenic influences. The quantitative attribution of these influences remains a challenging task in paleolimnology because their interaction makes the detection of linking mechanisms difficult even at high degree of detail and the processes themselves remain debatable.