Ecological dynamics of a peri-urban lake: A multi-proxy paleolimnological study of Cultus Lake (British Columbia) over the past ~200 years

Joanna Gauthier, Irene Gregory-Eaves, Lynda Bunting, Peter R. Leavitt, Tanya Tran, Lyse Godbout, Bruce P. Finney, Daniel E. Schindler, Guangjie Chen, Gordon Holtgrieve, Mark Shapley, Danie; T. Selbie

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Peri-urban lakes offer many valued ecosystem services, but their vulnerability to climate change and anthropogenic disturbances increases with increasing human populations the effects and interactions of multiple stressors on lakes can lead to unexpected outcomes, affecting societal and ecological values, it is necessary to evaluate ecosystem trajectories and respective drivers in peri-urban lakes. Better management practices could thus be applied to preserve ecosystem services of peri-urban lakes. We conducted a multi-proxy paleolimnological study on Cultus Lake, British Columbia, a Canadian peri-urban lake experiencing cultural eutrophication, to reconstruct a comprehensive ecological trajectory of the lake over the past ~ 200 years. We also integrated historical data as well as historical archival information to identify the potential drivers of the changes. We identified ca. 1800–1900 CE as a reference period, reflected in muted variations across most paleo-indicators. Minor increases in sedimentary δ15N ca. 1880–1940 CE coincided with the onset of anthropogenic modifications to the Cultus Lake watershed. Signs of early eutrophication were evident by ca. 1940 CE, as indicated by increases in all sedimentary pigments. By ca. 1970–1990 CE, elevated concentrations of sedimentary cyanobacterial pigments and changes in diatom species assemblages highlighted the potential interactive effects of multiple stressors, including cultural eutrophication, climate warming and declines in the endangered Cultus Lake sockeye salmon population. Recent (ca. 1990–2008 CE) declines in sedimentary pigments and increases in cladoceran fluxes suggested an increase in top-down control of the lake food web. From the collection of changes observed in the past ~ 200 years in our study, it is clear that Cultus Lake and its associated ecosystem services would benefit from abatement of nutrient loadings from terrestrial and atmospheric sources. Our study emphasizes the complexity and interactivity of drivers in peri-urban lake ecosystems and the necessity of long-term perspectives to contextualize modern ecological conditions to inform lake and watershed management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Early online date10 Sep 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 10 Sep 2020


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