Bottom-sediment cores collected in 2013 were used to investigate the recent and predevelopment (pre-1863) occurrence of selected nutrients (total nitrogen and total phosphorus), carbon, 39 trace elements, diatoms, cyanobacterial akinetes, and 3 radionuclides in the bottom sediment of Lake Maxinkuckee, a kettle lake in northern Indiana. Total nitrogen concentrations in the recent sediment (since about 1970) were variable with no consistent trend indicated. Total phosphorus concentrations in the recent sediment generally were uniform from about 1970 to about 2000 and indicated consistent inputs to the lake during that time. Subsequently, the history of total phosphorus deposition apparently was obscured by postdepositional upward diffusion.
Trace-element concentrations in the bottom sediment of Lake Maxinkuckee generally were not cause for concern. Elevated concentrations of cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc in the recent sediment, compared to the predevelopment sediment, indicated likely human-related contamination; however, the trace-element concentrations were less than probable-effects guidelines (available for nine trace elements), which represent the concentrations above which toxic aquatic biological effects usually or frequently occur. Arsenic concentrations typically exceeded the threshold-effects guideline, which represents the concentration above which toxic aquatic biological effects occasionally occur, in the recent and predevelopment sediment. The arsenic likely originated from natural sources. Lead concentrations historically exceeded the threshold-effects guideline, but since had decreased below it in the recent sediment at most coring sites. The decreasing trend likely was indicative of the effect of the phase out of leaded gasoline.
Biological indicators in the bottom sediment provided evidence for an improving, or at least not worsening, lake trophic condition. The occurrence of multiple diatom species, none of which were overwhelmingly dominant, was indicative of a minimally contaminated lake ecosystem. The combined evidence of several diatom species in the recent sediment indicated that the lake had not become more productive in recent decades. The combined evidence provided by akinetes for three cyanobacterial genera in the recent and predevelopment sediment indicated similar nutrient conditions in the lake during the past 40 years and possibly back to at least the mid-1800s.
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