, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 60–70 | Cite as

Impacts of Eutrophication on Carbon Burial in Freshwater Lakes in an Intensively Agricultural Landscape

  • Adam J. Heathcote
  • John A. Downing


The influence of inland water bodies on the global carbon cycle and the great potential for long-term carbon burial in them is an important component of global limnology. We used paleolimnological methods to estimate changes in carbon burial rates through time in a suite of natural lakes in the US state of Iowa which has watersheds that have been heavily modified over the last 150 years. Our results show increasing carbon burial for all lakes in our study as agriculture intensified. Our estimates of carbon burial rates, before land clearance, are similar to the published worldwide averages for nutrient-poor lakes. In nearly all the cases, burial rates increased to very high levels (up to 200 g C m−2 y−1) following agricultural development. These results support the idea that the increased autochthonous and allochthonous carbon flux, related to anthropogenic change, leads to higher rates of carbon burial. Further, these results imply that the fraction of global carbon buried by lakes will be increasingly important in the future if worldwide trends in anthropogenic eutrophication continue.


carbon burial eutrophication paleolimnology sediment agriculture global change organic matter 



This study was funded by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and was inspired by the ITAC (Integration of the Terrestrial and Aquatic Carbon) Working Group supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant DEB-94-21535), the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the State of California. The authors would like to thank Joy Ramstack, Mark Edlund, Dan Engstrom, and Erin Mortenson at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station for their assistance in the field and technical advice in the laboratory, as well as Kristina Brady and Amy Mybro at the Limnological Research Center for their assistance in core processing. The authors would also like to thank Charles Umbanhowar, Jr., for the use of his piston corer. Special thanks to Patricia Soranno and the Anonymous Reviewers 1 and 2 for their helpful comments on this manuscript.


  1. Anderson PF. 1997. GIS research to digitize maps of Iowa 1832–1859 vegetation from General Land Office township plat maps. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Department of Natural Resources.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson NJ, D’Andrea W, Fritz SC. 2009. Holocene carbon burial by lakes in SW Greenland. Glob Change Biol 15:2590–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appleby PG, Oldfield F. 1978. The calculation of lead-210 dates assuming a constant rate of supply of unsupported 210Pb to the sediment. Catena 5:1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arbuckle KE, Downing JA. 2001. The influence of watershed land use on lake N:P in a predominantly agricultural landscape. Limnol Oceanogr 46:970–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Auclair AN. 1976. Ecological factors in development of intensive-management ecosystems in Midwestern United-States. Ecology 57:431–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bachmann RW, Jones JR. 1974. Water quality in the Iowa Great Lakes: a report to the Iowa Great Lakes Water Quality Control Plan. Ames, IA: Iowa Agricultural and Home Economics Experiment Station Project.Google Scholar
  7. Balmer MB, Downing JA. 2011. Carbon dioxide concentrations in eutrophic lakes: undersaturation implies atmospheric uptake. Inland Waters 1:125–32.Google Scholar
  8. Battin TJ, Kaplan LA, Findlay S, Hopkinson CS, Marti E, Packman AI, Newbold JD, Sabater F. 2008. Biophysical controls on organic carbon fluxes in fluvial networks. Nat Geosci 1:95–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bennett EM, Carpenter SR, Caraco NF. 2001. Human impact on erodable phosphorus and eutrophication: a global perspective. BioScience 51:227–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carpenter SR, Caraco NF, Correll DL, Howarth RW, Sharpley AN, Smith VH. 1998. Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen. Ecol Appl 8:559–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cleveland WS, Grosse E, Shyu WM. 1992. Local regression models. In: Chambers JM, Hastie TJ, Eds. Statistical models in S. Boca Raton, FL: Chapman & Hall. p 309–76.Google Scholar
  12. Cole JJ, Prairie YT, Caraco NF, McDowell WH, Tranvik LJ, Striegl RG, Duarte CM, Kortelainen P, Downing JA, Middelburg J, Melack JM. 2007. Plumbing the global carbon cycle: integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon cycle. Ecosystems 10:171–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cushing EJ, Wright HE Jr. 1965. Hand-operated piston corers for lake sediments. Ecology 46:380–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis MB. 1976. Erosion rates and land-use history in southern Michigan. Environ Conserv 3:139–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dean WE. 1974. Determination of carbonate and organic-matter in calcareous sediments and sedimentary-rocks by loss on ignition—comparison with other methods. J Sediment Petrol 44:242–8.Google Scholar
  16. Dean WE, Gorham E. 1998. Magnitude and significance of carbon burial in lakes, reservoirs, and peatlands. Geology 26:535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dearing JA, Flower RJ. 1982. The magnetic-susceptibility of sedimenting material trapped in Lough-Neagh, Northern-Ireland, and its erosional significance. Limnol Oceanogr 27:969–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dearing JA, Jones RT. 2003. Coupling temporal and spatial dimensions of global sediment flux through lake and marine sediment records. Glob Planet Change 39:147–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Del Giorgio PA, Cole JJ, Cimbleris A. 1997. Respiration rates in bacteria exceed phytoplankton production in unproductive aquatic systems. Nature 385:148–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Del Giorgio PA, Cole JJ, Caraco NF, Peters RH. 1999. Linking planktonic biomass and metabolism to net gas fluxes in northern temperate lakes. Ecology 80:1422–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Downing JA. 2003. Looking into Earth’s eye: a watershed view of clear lakes. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. pp 8–11.Google Scholar
  22. Downing JA, Cole JJ, Middelburg JJ, Striegl RG, Duarte CM, Kortelainen P, Prairie YT, Laube KA. 2008. Sediment organic carbon burial in agriculturally eutrophic impoundments over the last century. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 22:GB1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duarte C, Prairie Y. 2005. Prevalence of heterotrophy and atmospheric CO2 emissions from aquatic ecosystems. Ecosystems 8:862–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Engstrom DR, Swain EB. 1986. The chemistry of lake sediments in time and space. Hydrobiologia 143:37–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. ESRI. 2008. ArcMap 9.3. Redlands, CA: Environmental Research Systems Institute.Google Scholar
  26. Fuller CC, Van Geen A, Baskaran M, Anima R. 1999. Sediment chronology in San Francisco Bay, California, defined by 210Pb, 234Th, 137Cs, and 239 , 240Pu. Marine Chem 64:7–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jobbágy EG, Jackson RB. 2000. The vertical distribution of soil organic carbon and its relation to climate and vegetation. Ecol Appl 10:423–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johnson TC, Brown ET, Shi JM. 2010. Biogenic silica deposition in Lake Malawi, East Africa over the past 150,000 years. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 303:103–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones R, Benson Evans K, Chambers FM. 1985. Human influence upon sedimentation in Llangorse Lake, Wales. Earth Surf Proces Landf 10:227–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lazzarino JK, Bachmann RW, Hoyer MV, Canfield DE Jr. 2009. Carbon dioxide supersaturation in Florida lakes. Hydrobiologia 627:169–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lehman JT. 1975. Reconstructing rate of accumulation of lake sediment—effect of sediment focusing. Quat Res 5:541–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lyle M, Mitchell N, Pisias N, Mix A, Martinez JI, Paytan A. 2005. Do geochemical estimates of sediment focusing pass the sediment test in the equatorial Pacific? Paleoceanography 20:PA1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mulholland PJ, Elwood JW. 1982. The role of lake and reservoir sediments as sinks in the perturbed global carbon-cycle. Tellus 34:490–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mutel CF. 2008. The emerald horizon: the history of nature in Iowa. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.Google Scholar
  35. Ragueneau O, Leynaert A, Tréguer P, DeMaster DJ, Anderson RF. 1996. Opal studied as a marker of paleoproductivity. EOS Trans 77:491–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rippey B, Anderson NJ, Renberg I, Korsman T. 2008. The accuracy of methods used to estimate the whole-lake accumulation rate of organic carbon, major cations, phosphorus and heavy metals in sediment. J Paleolimnol 39:83–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Risser J. 1981. A renewed threat of soil-erosion—its worse than the dust bowl. Smithsonian 11:120–31.Google Scholar
  38. Rowan DJ, Cornett RJ, King K, Risto B. 1995. Sediment focusing and Pb-210 dating—a new approach. J Paleolimnol 13:107–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schelske CL, Stoermer EF, Conley DJ, Robbins JA, Glover RM. 1983. Early eutrophication in the Lower Great-Lakes—new evidence from biogenic silica in sediments. Science 222:320–2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sobek S, Durisch-Kaiser E, Zurbrugg R, Wongfun N, Wessels M, Pasche N, Wehrli B. 2009. Organic carbon burial efficiency in lake sediments controlled by oxygen exposure time and sediment source. Limnol Oceanogr 54:2243–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stumm W, Morgan JJ. 1996. Aquatic chemistry: chemical equilibria and rates in natural waters. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  42. Thompson R, Battarbee RW, Osullivan PE, Oldfield F. 1975. Magnetic-susceptibility of lake sediments. Limnol Oceanogr 20:687–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tilman D, Fargione J, Wolff B, D’Antonio C, Dobson A, Howarth R, Schindler D, Schlesinger WH, Simberloff D, Swackhamer D. 2001. Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change. Science 292:281–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tranvik LJ, Downing JA, Cotner JB, Loiselle SA, Striegl RG, Ballatore TJ, Dillon P, Finlay K, Fortino K, Knoll LB, Kortelainen PL, Kutser T, Larsen S, Laurion I, Leech DM, McCallister SL, McKnight DM, Melack JM, Overholt E, Porter JA, Prairie Y, Renwick WH, Roland F, Sherman BS, Schindler DW, Sobek S, Tremblay A, Vanni MJ, Verschoor AM, von Wachenfeldt E, Weyhenmeyer GA. 2009. Lakes and reservoirs as regulators of carbon cycling and climate. Limnol Oceanogr 54:2298–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Van Zant KL, Webb T, Peterson GM, Baker RG. 1979. Increased Cannabis/Humulus pollen, an indicator of European agriculture in Iowa. Palynology 3:227–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Watson SB, McCauley E, Downing JA. 1997. Patterns in phytoplankton taxonomic composition across temperate lakes of differing nutrient status. Limnol Oceanogr 42:487–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wong CS, Sanders G, Engstrom DR, Long DT, Swackhamer DL, Eisenreich SJ. 1995. Accumulation, inventory, and diagenesis of chlorinated hydrocarbons in Lake Ontario sediments. Environ Sci Technol 29:2661–72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

Personalised recommendations