Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 21–35 | Cite as

Post-colonial pollution of the Bay of Cartagena, Colombia

  • Yuliana Serna
  • Alexander Correa-Metrio
  • William Francis Kenney
  • Jason Hillary Curtis
  • Maria Isabel Velez
  • Mark Brenner
  • Natalia Hoyos
  • Juan Camilo Restrepo
  • Cecilia Cordero-Oviedo
  • David Buck
  • Nancy Suarez
  • Jaime EscobarEmail author
Original paper


The city of Cartagena, Colombia, was founded in 1533, making it the fifth oldest, continuously inhabitated colonial city in South America. Today, Cartagena is the fifth largest city in Colombia, with ~ 1.2 million inhabitants. Las Quintas Lagoon lies near the center of Cartagena and is connected hydrologically to the Bay of Cartagena and Las Virgenes Lagoon via channels. The sediments of Las Quintas Lagoon thus offer a unique opportunity to explore the environmental history of one of the oldest cities in South America. We analysed a 210Pb- and 14C-dated sediment core from Las Quintas Lagoon to investigate the environmental effects of long-term urban development in this tropical, estuarine setting. The sediment core from Las Quintas Lagoon displays evidence of change in the depositional environment during the last few centuries. Principal Component Analysis indicated relatively stable conditions in Las Quintas Lagoon from the begining of the record (about 1300 CE) until ca. 1900 CE, when the ongoing eutrophication began. PC1 shows statistical significance and was dominated by geochemical indicators, whereas PC2 correlated with pollen spectra. Upcore decreases in TOC/TN values, together with increases in TOC, TN and δ15N values, indicate greater autochthonous (i.e. phytoplankton) production and eutrophication. Lack of statistical significance of PC2 points to low variability among pollen spectra, and hence vegetation, through time. Diatom assemblages in the Las Quintas Lagoon sediment record display two shifts during the last 100 years, ca. 1940 and 2000, which also reflect progressive eutrophication of the system.


Urban pollution Caribbean lagoon Paleolimnology Anthropocene Sediments 



This research was funded partially by a grant from the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) CRN3038, which is supported by the US National Science Foundation (Grant GEO-1128040). J Escobar and N Hoyos were funded partially by Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships (QES), a partnership among Universities in Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), and Community Foundations of Canada (CFC). The QES is made possible with financial support from the International Development Research Centre and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. N Hoyos was supported partially by the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)
10933_2019_101_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (129 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 128 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuliana Serna
    • 1
  • Alexander Correa-Metrio
    • 2
  • William Francis Kenney
    • 3
  • Jason Hillary Curtis
    • 4
  • Maria Isabel Velez
    • 5
  • Mark Brenner
    • 4
  • Natalia Hoyos
    • 6
  • Juan Camilo Restrepo
    • 1
  • Cecilia Cordero-Oviedo
    • 7
  • David Buck
    • 8
  • Nancy Suarez
    • 9
  • Jaime Escobar
    • 10
    • 11
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Fisica y GeologiaUniversidad del NorteBarranquillaColombia
  2. 2.Instituto de GeologiaUniversidad Nacional Autonoma de MexicoCoyoacán, Mexico D.F.Mexico
  3. 3.Land Use and Environmental Change InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geological Sciences, and Land Use and Environmental Change InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of GeologyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  6. 6.Departamento de Historia y Ciencias SocialesUniversidad del NorteBarranquillaColombia
  7. 7.Posgrado en Ciencias de la TierraUniversidad Nacional Autonoma de MexicoCoyoacán, Mexico D.F.Mexico
  8. 8.School of Marine Science and Ocean EngineeringUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  9. 9.Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y LimnologiaUniversidad Autonoma de MexicoMazatlánMexico
  10. 10.Departamento de Ingenieria Civil y AmbientalUniversidad del NorteBarranquillaColombia
  11. 11.Center for Tropical Paleoecology and ArchaeologySmithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaPanama

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