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The origin of shallow lakes in the Khorezm Province, Uzbekistan, and the history of pesticide use around these lakes

January 1, 2018

The economy of the Khorezm Province in Uzbekistan relies on the large-scale agricultural production of cotton. To sustain their staple crop, water from the Amu Darya is diverted for irrigation through canal systems constructed during the early to mid-twentieth century when this region was part of the Soviet Union. These diversions severely reduce river flow to the Aral Sea. The Province has >400 small shallow (<3 m deep) lakes that may have originated because of this intensive irrigation. Sediment cores were collected from 12 lakes to elucidate their origin because this knowledge is critical to understanding water use in Khorezm. Core chronological data indicate that the majority of the lakes investigated are less than 150 years old, which supports a recent origin of the lakes. The thickness of lacustrine sediments in the cores analyzed ranged from 20 to 60 cm in all but two of the lakes, indicating a relatively slow sedimentation rate and a relatively short-term history for the lakes. Hydrologic changes in the lakes are evident from loss on ignition and pollen analyses of a subset of the lake cores. The data indicate that the lakes have transitioned from a dry, saline, arid landscape during pre-lake conditions (low organic carbon content) and low pollen concentrations (in the basal sediments) to the current freshwater lakes (high organic content), with abundant freshwater pollen taxa over the last 50–70 years. Sediments at the base of the cores contain pollen taxa dominated by Chenopodiaceae and Tamarix, indicating that the vegetation growing nearby was tolerant to arid saline conditions. The near surface sediments of the cores are dominated by Typha/Sparganium, which indicate freshwater conditions. Increases in pollen of weeds and crop plants indicate an intensification of agricultural activities since the 1950s in the watersheds of the lakes analyzed. Pesticide profiles of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and its degradates and γ-HCH (gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane), which were used during the Soviet era, show peak concentrations in the top 10 cm of some of the cores, where estimated ages of the sediments (1950–1990) are associated with peak pesticide use during the Soviet era. These data indicate that the lakes are relatively young (mostly <150 years old) and that without irrigation and canal inputs from the Amu Darya, the lakes would not exist as freshwater lakes.

Publication Year 2018
Title The origin of shallow lakes in the Khorezm Province, Uzbekistan, and the history of pesticide use around these lakes
DOI 10.1007/s10933-016-9914-2
Authors Michael R. Rosen, Arica Crootof, Liam Reidy, Laurel Saito, Bakhriddin Nishonov, Julian A. Scott
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Paleolimnology
Index ID 70177030
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Office of the Associate Director for Water