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Long-term Changes in Environmental Variables of Traunsee, an Oligotrophic Austrian Lake Impacted by the Salt Industry, and Two Reference Sites Hallstättersee and Attersee

Abstract

Morphometric, hydrological and basic physico-chemicalcharacteristics of three deep Alpine lakes, Traunsee,Hallstättersee and Attersee as well as their long-termbahaviour are presented. The deep Alpine lakesHallstättersee and Traunsee have been influenced by saltmining and the traditional salt industry for over 100 years. Waste products from these activities, entering the lakes, have mainlyaffected the chemistry of these water bodies, especially bysubstantially increasing the chloride concentrations up to 170 mg L-1. As a consequence of the increased density, mixing conditions of the lakes were altered. The resulting incomplete mixing led to oxygen depletionin deeper layers. In addition, increased nutrientload from the catchment rised the trophic level in the 70s and 80sof the last century in turn, affecting the oxygen content in thehypolimnion. Finally a situation developed where the risk becamehigh for these lakes to become meromictic induced by humanactivity. In fact, Hallstättersee became facultativelymeromictic. This process was interrupted by increased chlorideinput of more than 30 mg L-1 due to accidental wash outfrom an upstream salt mine rendering Hallstätterseehomogenous in 1978 to 1980 resulting in complete over-turn. Conditions substantially improved in both lakes after miningpractices were altered and restoration measures againsteutrophication were initiated. Chloride and phosphorusconcentrations declined, while oxygen conditions substantiallyimproved in the following years. Conditions in Traunseesubstantially improved and chloride levels near the sedimentdecreased to less than 140 mg L-1. The third lakeconsidered here, Attersee, always remained in a near-naturalstate although some signs of increased nutrient levels becamevisible in the late 1970s. Chloride concentrations of around 3 mgL-1 in this lake can be considered as background levels.Attersee can now serve as a reference site for deep Alpine lakesbecause of its ultra-oligotrophic and pristine nature.

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Jagsch, A., Gassner, H. & Dokulil, M.T. Long-term Changes in Environmental Variables of Traunsee, an Oligotrophic Austrian Lake Impacted by the Salt Industry, and Two Reference Sites Hallstättersee and Attersee. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution: Focus 2, 9–20 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020301302080

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020301302080

  • chloride
  • meromixis
  • oxygen
  • phosphorus