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A 450-year record of environmental change from Castle Lake, California (USA), inferred from diatoms and organic geochemistry

Abstract

A 39-cm sediment core from Castle Lake, California (USA) spans the last ~ 450 years and was analyzed for diatoms and organic geochemistry (δ15N, δ13C, and C:N), with the goal of determining sensitivity to natural climate variation and twentieth century anthropogenic effects. Castle Lake is a subalpine, nitrogen-limited lake with ~ 5 months of annual ice cover. Human impacts include light recreational use, past fish stocking, and experimental use by the Castle Lake Research Station. The base of the core (below 32 cm; pre mid-1700s) represents the period of maximum ice cover. In contrast, the end of the Little Ice Age (mid 1700s–early 1800s) is dominated by cyclotelloids (mostly Discostella stelligera), indicating significant open-water periods, a condition that persisted into the early 1900s. Cyclotelloids began to decline in the 1960s and were replaced by the Fragilaria tenera grp. (peak in 1970s), succeeded by Asterionella formosa (peak ~ 2010), and accompanied by a reduction in δ15N values and a decrease in C:N that may represent increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Another anthropogenic signal was discerned in the core and was interpreted to be the result of an ammonium nitrate fertilization experiment of the epilimnion that was conducted in 1980 and 1981. This signal was manifested in the core largely by a negative excursion in δ15N, possibly caused by fractionation during denitrification in surface sediment. A phytoplankton monitoring dataset collected by the Castle Lake Research Station from 1967 to 1984 corroborates the timing of increased araphid euplanktonic species in the 1970s, and increases in two benthic diatoms (Staurosirella pinnata and Tabellaria fenestrata), entrained in the phytoplankton tows during the experimentation years. Both ice cover and nitrogen addition appear to be strong drivers that affected the lake diatoms, although additional drivers, such as fish stocking and associated cascade effects need further exploration. These data will be helpful for interpreting longer core records from Castle Lake, should the opportunity arise, as well as cores from similar systems in the region.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by funds from the University of Nevada College of Science, Office of Research and Innovation, and Undergraduate Research. Thanks to B. Johnson and A. Heyvaert for their work on the 2009 core, M. Brannigan, and G. Binda for field assistance, and C. Goldman and many support staff from Castle Lake Research Station for access to monitoring datasets. We thank Lesleigh Anderson (US Geological Survey) and two anonymous reviewers who provided additional insight and improvements that greatly benefited the final manuscript. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

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Correspondence to Paula J. Noble.

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Table S1 Pb, Rn, Cs, and Am radioisotope data for core 17-CL-2 (XLSX 8 kb)

Table S2 Plum output of ages and their uncertainties for each section of core 17-CL-2 (XLSX 7 kb)

Table S3 Diatom counts for core 17-CL-2 (XLSX 130 kb)

10933_2020_160_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx

Table S4 Spreadsheet monitoring data from Castle Lake, including summaries of phytoplankton from 1968–1984, with a focus on diatom fraction, seasonal and depth variability for 1968–69, and ice-out dates from 1964-2013 (XLSX 750 kb)

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Noble, P.J., McGaughey, G.A., Rosen, M.R. et al. A 450-year record of environmental change from Castle Lake, California (USA), inferred from diatoms and organic geochemistry. J Paleolimnol 65, 201–217 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-020-00160-y

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Keywords

  • Diatom
  • Stable isotopes
  • Plum
  • Little ice age
  • Anthropogenic
  • Atmospheric nitrogen deposition