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Compositional changes in sediments of subalpine lakes, Uinta Mountains (Utah): Evidence for the effects of human activity on atmospheric dust inputs

January 1, 2010

Sediments in Marshall and Hidden Lakes in the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah contain records of atmospheric mineral-dust deposition as revealed by differences in mineralogy and geochemistry of lake sediments relative to Precambrian clastic rocks in the watersheds. In cores spanning more than a thousand years, the largest changes in composition occurred within the past approximately 140 years. Many elements associated with ore deposits (Ag, As, Bi, Cd, Cu, In, Mo, Pb, S, Sb, Sn, and Te) increase in the lake sediments above depths that correspond to about AD 1870. Sources of these metals from mining districts to the west of the Uinta Mountains are suggested by (1) the absence of mining and smelting of these metals in the Uinta Mountains, and (2) lower concentrations of most of these elements in post-settlement sediments of Hidden Lake than in those of Marshall Lake, which is closer to areas of mining and the densely urbanized part of north-central Utah that is termed the Wasatch Front, and (3) correspondence of Pb isotopic compositions in the sediments with isotopic composition of ores likely to have been smelted in the Wasatch Front. A major source of Cu in lake sediments may have been the Bingham Canyon open-pit mine 110 km west of Marshall Lake. Numerous other sources of metals beyond the Wasatch Front are likely, on the basis of the widespread increases of industrial activities in western United States since about AD 1900. In sediment deposited since ca. AD 1945, as estimated using 239+240Pu activities, increases in concentrations of Mn, Fe, S, and some other redox-sensitive metals may result partly from diagenesis related to changes in redox. However, our results indicate that these elemental increases are also related to atmospheric inputs on the basis of their large increases that are nearly coincident with abrupt increases in silt-sized, titanium-bearing detrital magnetite. Such magnetite is interpreted as a component of atmospheric dust, because it is absent in catchment bedrock. Enrichment of P in sediments deposited after ca. AD 1950 appears to be caused largely by atmospheric inputs, perhaps from agricultural fertilizer along with magnetite-bearing soil.

Publication Year 2010
Title Compositional changes in sediments of subalpine lakes, Uinta Mountains (Utah): Evidence for the effects of human activity on atmospheric dust inputs
DOI 10.1007/s10933-009-9394-8
Authors Richard L. Reynolds, Jessica S. Mordecai, Joseph G. Rosenbaum, Michael E. Ketterer, Megan K. Walsh, Katrina Moser
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Paleolimnology
Index ID 70209637
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center