• A comparison between diatom inferred ph changes and diatom populations in brownwater and clearwater lakes

      Ciolfi, John.; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 1983-07-09)
      The objective of this study was to determine whether clearwater and brownwater lakes differed in their rate of acidification as inferred by subfossil diatoms analyzed in recent downcore sediments. Differences between associations of diatom populations in brownwater and clearwater environments were characterized. Sediment cores were taken from four lakes located north and east of Lake Superior, near Wawa, Ontario. Two of these lakes were humicrich, brownwater lakes ( lakes U1 and CB2). The two other lakes were clearwater lakes ( lakes Xl and CF). The regression of Nygaard log index-alpha for surficial diatom sediments on observed pH ( Inferred pH = 6.57 - 0.82 log index-alpha ), was utilized to infer lake pH in recent sediments of these lakes. Upon analyzing the downcore diatoms, it was discovered that no significant change, in downcore diatom inferred pH, could be detected in the two brownwater lakes. In contrast, the two clearwater lakes showed significant shifts in downcore diatom inferred pH. In one of these lakes, pH had dropped from 5.3 to 4.5, in the top 9.0 cm of the core, while in the second lake, pH had dropped from 5.4 to 5.0 in the top 1.5 cm of the core. These findings suggested that humic substances, found in brownwater lakes, imparted a buffering capacity to these lake waters. In the clearwater lakes, the decrease in pH was very probably a consequence of acid precipitation. The Ambrosia rise ( circa 1890 ) occurred at the same depth in both brownwater lakes ( 11.0 - 12.0 cm). In both clearwater lakes, the Ambrosia rise occurred at a depth of 14.0 - 15.0 cm. This suggested a lower sedimentation rate in the brownwater lakes. pH influenced the total percentage composition of diatom pH indicator groups. Greater numbers of alkaliphilous taxa were found in less acidic lakes ( e.g. Lake Ul ), While greater numbers of acidloving forms were found in highly acidic lakes ( e.g. Lake Xl ). There was a greater abundance of indifferent forms in the brownwater lakes, than in the clearwater lakes. A number of diatom genera and species were found to be associated with either clearwater or brownwater conditions. The centric diatom, ~elosira distans, significantly increased in abundance in the recent sediments of both clearwater lakes. This may be indicating a shift toward a more oligotrophic state within these acidic, clearwater lakes. This study suggested that a pH index based on subfossil diatoms may be a sensitive indicator of changing lake pH. This study also indicated that humic substances may playa more important role, than previously acknowledged, in controlling the pH dynamics of lake waters, and in determining diatom populations.