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Historical changes in sediments of Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA: Consequences of changes in the water balance of a terminal desert lake



Historical changes in sediments of Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA: Consequences of changes in the water balance of a terminal desert lake



Journal of Paleolimnology 12(2): 87-101



Sediment cores from the shallow and deep basins of Pyramid Lake, Nevada, revealed variations in composition with depth reflecting changes in lake level, river inflow, and lake productivity. Recent sediments from the period of historical record indicate: (1) CaCO-3 and organic content of sediment in the shallow basin decrease at lower lake level, (2) CaCO-3 content of deep basin sediments increases when lake level decreases rapidly, and (3) the inorganic P content of sediments increases with decreasing lake volume. Variations in sediment composition also indicate several periods for which productivity in Pyramid Lake may have been elevated over the past 1000 years. Our data provide strong evidence for increased productivity during the first half of the 20th Century, although the typical pattern for cultural eutrophication was not observed. The organic content of sediments also suggests periods of increased productivity in the lake prior to the discovery and development of the region by white settlers. Indeed, a broad peak in organic fractions during the 1800's originates as an increase starting around 1600. However, periods of changing organic content of sediments also correspond to periods when inflow to the lake was probably at extremes (e.g. drought or flood) indicating that fluctuations in river inflow may be an important factor affecting sediment composition in Pyramid Lake.

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Accession: 008779743

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DOI: 10.1007/bf00678089


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