A paleolimnological approach was taken to aid the Grand Portage Reservation, in northeastern Minnesota, in determining reference conditions for lakes on the reservation. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians and the Science Museum of Minnesota, conducted a study to describe water quality (2000–08) and historical total phosphorus concentrations (approximately 1781–2006) for Swamp and Speckled Trout Lakes. Results from this study may be used as a guide in establishing nutrient criteria in these and other lakes on the Grand Portage Reservation. Historical phosphorus concentrations were inferred through paleolimnological reconstruction methods involving diatom analysis and lead-210 dating of lake-sediment cores. Historical diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations in Swamp Lake ranged from 0.017 to 0.025 milligrams per liter (mg/L) based on diatom assemblages in sediment samples dated 1781–2005. Historical diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations in Speckled Trout Lake ranged from 0.008 to 0.014 mg/L based on diatom assemblages in sediment samples dated 1825–2006. In both lakes, historical changes in diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations did not exceed model error estimates, indicating that there has been minimal change in total phosphorus concentrations in the two lakes over about two centuries. The pH and alkalinity values of waters in both lakes indicate that general water-quality conditions likely are not threatening fish or acid-intolerant forms of aquatic life. Lake-sediment cores from Swamp and Speckled Trout Lakes were collected in 2006 and dated back to 1781 for Swamp Lake and 1825 for Speckled Trout Lake. A large increase in sediment accumulation rate after 1960 likely was a result of logging along the northeastern shore of Swamp Lake in 1958. The diatom flora of Swamp Lake is very diverse with more than 280 diatom taxa found in the core samples. These diatoms included many rare or uncommon species and several unknown taxa. Minor increases in sediment accumulation rates in the Speckled Trout Lake core occurred between 1840 and 1880. These increases may have resulted from fires following droughts in northeastern Minnesota. Heinselman (1973) identified five periods of fire in the 1800s for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota: 1801, 1824, 1863–64, 1875, and 1894. Most of these fire periods followed prolonged droughts of subcontinental extent, including the 1864 drought. Similar to the Swamp Lake core, the diatom flora of the Speckled Trout Lake core was very diverse and dominated by softwater diatoms. More than 215 diatom taxa were found in the core samples including many rare or uncommon species and several unknown taxa. Results of loss-on-ignition analyses indicated that sediment from Swamp Lake historically has been dominated by the inorganic component with a shift to an organic component in modern sedimentation. Median values of recent (2000–08) total phosphorus concentrations in water-quality samples and diatom-inferred phosphorus in recent sedimentation in Swamp and Speckled Trout Lakes were similar. These similarities, coupled with strong analogues for subfossil diatom communities for both lakes within the 89 Minnesota lakes diatom transfer function, indicate that recent and historical diatom-inferred phosphorus reconstructions might be used to help establish reference conditions and nutrient criteria for Grand Portage Reservation lakes when a sampling program is designed to ensure representative phosphorus concentrations in water samples are comparable to diatom-inferred concentrations.
This is a technical study to determine reference conditions for water quality on the Grand Portage Reservation. It has some historical interest related to human settlement, as well as data useful for monitoring water quality in the future. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
Christensen, Victoria G; Jones, Perry M; Edlund, Mark B; Ramstack, Joy M.
Water Quality (2000-08) and Historical Phosphorus Concentrations from Paleolimnological Studies of Swamp and Speckled Trout Lakes, Grand Portage Reservation, Northeastern Minnesota.
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