Consequences of anthropogenic activity for two remote alpine lakes in NW Slovenia as tracked by sediment geochemistry

Abstract

Several geological and geochemical parameters were determined in the sediments of the 5th (5 J) and 6th (6 J) Triglav Lakes, Julian Alps (NW Slovenia), in order to study the impact of natural catchment characteristics and anthropogenic activity. Fish were introduced into both lakes in 1991 and a mountain hut lies on the shore of 5 J. Sedimentary grain size (GS) was distinctly coarser in 5 J than 6 J, with arithmetic means ranging between 46 and 60 and 23–36 μm, respectively. In contrast, the mineralogical composition of the two sediments was similar. Calcite predominated strongly, comprising more than 77 % of total minerals, while dolomite and quartz were rare. Organic carbon (OC) and total nitrogen (TN) concentrations were highest in surficial sediments, with levels of 14.4 and 1.8 %, and 19.3 and 2.4 % observed in 5 J and 6 J, respectively. C/N ratios (atomic) were lowest in the same surface sediments, with the two lakes characterized by similar values (9.6 vs. 9.4, respectively), suggesting a predominance of autochthonous organic matter (OM) in both lakes. Contemporary δ13C values were lower in 5 J (−21.0 ‰) than 6 J (−18.5 ‰) sediments. Considerable changes in these four parameters were observed in recently deposited material, reflecting a shift in the trophic status of both lakes that was likely induced by the introduction of fish. In addition, the smaller and shallower 6 J seemed to respond to changes faster than the larger and deeper 5 J, indicating the higher sensitivity of the former. δ15N values in surface sediments of 5 J and 6 J were −2.9 and −4.4 ‰, respectively, with levels increasing gradually with depth to approximately +1.0 ‰ in deeper sediments. The observed changes could most likely be attributed to the atmospheric deposition of reactive nitrogen. The mountain hut has seemingly not had a significant enough impact on the lakes to be recorded in their sediments.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank colleagues and students at the Department of Geology, Jožef Stefan Institute, the National Institute of Biology and the Slovenian Environment Agency for their support and help both in the field and in the laboratory. This research was performed as part of research program P1-0143 and research project J6-4016 funded by the Slovenian Research Agency. Dr. Clark R. Alexander (Skidaway Institute of Oceanography) is kindly acknowledged for a fruitful discussion on sediment dating. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and critical comments that greatly improved the quality of our manuscript.

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Muri, G., Čermelj, B., Jaćimović, R. et al. Consequences of anthropogenic activity for two remote alpine lakes in NW Slovenia as tracked by sediment geochemistry. J Paleolimnol 50, 457–470 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-013-9738-2

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Keywords

  • Double lake—Dvojno jezero
  • Fish introduction
  • Sedimentology
  • Organic matter
  • Stable isotopes
  • Julian Alps