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The history of subaquatic volcanism recorded in the sediments of Lake Kivu; East Africa

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Abstract

Subaquatic volcanic activity has been ongoing in Lake Kivu since the early Holocene and has a dynamic effect on the biological productivity in the surface water, and the preservation of carbonate in the deep anoxic water. Groundwater discharge into the lake’s deepwater propels the upward advection of the water column that ultimately supplies nutrients to the surface water for biological production. The amount of nutrients supplied from the deepwater can be increased suddenly by (1) a cold meteorological event that drives deep seasonal mixing resulting in increased nutrients from below and oxygen from above, or (2) subaquatic volcanic activity that induces a buoyant hydrothermal plume, which entrains nutrients from the deepwater and results in anoxia or suboxic conditions in the surface water. Previous sedimentological studies in Lake Kivu have hypothesized that regional climatic changes are responsible for sudden changes in the preservation of carbonates in the Main Basin. Here we reveal that sublacustrine volcanic events most likely induce the abrupt changes to the geochemistry in the sediment in Lake Kivu. An unprecedented look into the sediment stratigraphy and geochemistry from high-resolution seismic-reflection, and \(^{15}\hbox {N}\)-isotope analyses was conducted in the Main Basin. The results reveal that buoyant hydrothermal plumes caused by subaquatic volcanic activity are a possible trigger for increased biological productivity and organic matter preservation, and that ongoing hydrothermal activity increases the alkalinity in the deepwater, leading to carbonate preservation. The onset of carbonate preservation since the 1970s that is currently observed in the sediment could indicate that hydrothermal discharge has recently increased in the lake.

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Acknowledgments

Fieldwork for this project was conducted on Lake Kivu with no special permissions because the study was part of a joint scientific project involving the University of Rwanda (former Kigali Institute of Science and Technology) and the Institut Supérieur Pdagogique de Bukavu (DR Congo). We would like to thank W. Versteeg, K. De Rycker, N. Pasche, C. Balagizi, and the crew of the RV Gloria for their assistance during the sampling campaign in Africa. For the sedimentary analysis back in Europe, we would like to thank A. Zwyssig, I. Brunner, C. Schubert, P. Zigah, S. Robert., M. Morellon, and J. Frigola. Furthermore, we are very grateful for the scientific discussions and intellectual support provided by A. Wüest, B. Wehrli, A. Brand, M. Hilbe, M. De Batist, J. Moernaut, L. Och, H. Vogel, and N. Dubois. We are additionally thankful for the helpful comments given by the editors J. Holmes and T. J. Whitmore, and the anonymous reviewers. Lastly, we are honoured to have worked with Gijs Nobbe for support with the geochemical and isotope analysis; whose uplifting, patient, and kind demeanour will remain in our memory. This project was financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for the Development and Cooperation under grant IZ70Z0-123923.

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Correspondence to Kelly Ann Ross.

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Ross, K.A., Schmid, M., Ogorka, S. et al. The history of subaquatic volcanism recorded in the sediments of Lake Kivu; East Africa. J Paleolimnol 54, 137–152 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-015-9842-6

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