Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 405–418 | Cite as

Historical trends of mercury and spheroidal carbonaceous particle deposition in sub-alpine lakes in the Great Basin, United States

  • Scott A. ReinemannEmail author
  • David F. Porinchu
  • Mae Sexauer Gustin
  • Bryan G. Mark
Original paper


The geochemistry of lake sediments was used to identify anthropogenic factors influencing aquatic ecosystems of sub-alpine lakes in the western United States during the past century. Sediment cores were recovered from six high-elevation lakes in the central Great Basin of the United States. The proxies utilized to examine the degree of recent anthropogenic environmental change include spheroidal carbonaceous particle (SCP), mercury (Hg), and sediment organic content estimated using loss-on-ignition. Chronologies for the sediment cores, developed using 210Pb, indicate the cores span the twentieth century. Mercury flux varied between lakes but all exhibited increasing fluxes during the mid-twentieth century. The mean ratio of modern (post-A.D. 1985) to preindustrial (pre-A.D. 1880) Hg flux was 5.2, which is comparable to the results from previous studies conducted in western North America. Peak SCP flux for all lakes occurred between approximately A.D. 1940 and A.D. 1970, after which time the SCP flux was greatly reduced. The reduction in SCP input is likely due to better controls on combustion sources. Measured Hg concentrations and calculated sedimentation rates suggest atmospheric Hg flux increased in the early 1900s, from A.D. 1920 to A.D. 1990, and at present. Atmospheric deposition is the primary source of the anthropogenic inputs of Hg and SCPs to these high elevation lakes. The input of SCPs, which is largely driven by regional sources, has declined with the implementation of national pollution control regulations. Mercury deposition in the Great Basin has most likely been influenced more by regional inputs.


Lake Mercury Spheroidal carbonaceous particle Great Basin Subalpine Paleolimnology 



We thank Gretchen Baker (Staff Ecologist, GBNP), Andrew J. Ferguson (Superintendent, GBNP) and United States Forest Service (USFS) for providing access to the research sites and facilitating our research. We also thank Paul Soltesz, Jim DeGrand, and Nathan Patrick for their unyielding assistance in the field; and Christian Briggs and Lydia Peri for analyzing Hg in the sediment samples at University Nevada-Reno. We gratefully acknowledge The Western National Park Association (WPNA), the Department of Geography at The Ohio State University, and a NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant to D. F. Porinchu and S.A. Reinemann (BCS-1130340) for funding this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott A. Reinemann
    • 1
    Email author
  • David F. Porinchu
    • 2
  • Mae Sexauer Gustin
    • 3
  • Bryan G. Mark
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental ScienceUniversity of Nevada-RenoRenoUSA

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