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PaleolimnologyThe History and Evolution of Lake Systems$
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Andrew S. Cohen

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195133530

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195133530.001.0001

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Paleolimnology at the Local to Regional Scale: Records of Changing Watersheds and Industrialization

Paleolimnology at the Local to Regional Scale: Records of Changing Watersheds and Industrialization

Chapter:
(p.329) 12 Paleolimnology at the Local to Regional Scale: Records of Changing Watersheds and Industrialization
Source:
Paleolimnology
Author(s):

Andrew S. Cohen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195133530.003.0016

Paleolimnologists have developed an impressive track record documenting the history of human influence on lakes and their surroundings, and using these historical inferences to help policy makers establish lake and ecosystem management goals. Our ability to do this depends on both a comparative analysis of multiple lake records, and a firmly established chronology. The comparative approach to paleolimnology allows us to differentiate local phenomena resulting from peculiarities of study watersheds from regional phenomena. Comparison of records also allows the timing of events to be placed in a regional context, where explanations of processes that affect large areas, like lake acidification, regional patterns of air pollution, or landscape disturbance may be more broadly interpretable. Comparative paleolimnology allows the researcher to study the multiple effects of local to regional-scale phenomena and differentiate them from global phenomena. Closely coupled with our requirement for a comparative approach to paleolimnology is the need to place events in a highly resolved chronology, especially over the past 200 years, the period of greatest interest to understanding major human alternations of the environment. In many parts of the world, including the highly industrialized and relatively well-‘‘monitored’’ environments of North America and Europe, instrumental records of water quality are either spotty or unavailable. Until the 1960s, the number of lakes with regular monitoring programs for even basic limnological parameters was extremely small. And in regions with numerous water bodies, selection criteria for the investigation of lakes often has had more to do with proximity to major research facilities or peculiarities of road access than with the needs of society. Paleolimnological records integrate ecological signals at scales that are relevant to the interests of lake managers, who need to understand the timing and magnitude of human activities. Even when limnological monitoring is available, paleolimnological approaches can answer questions at temporal and spatial scales that are unattainable by the monitoring regime in place. The difficulty of understanding the history of human impacts on ecosystems is particularly acute in underdeveloped regions of the world, where access to monitoring equipment is limited. For lakes in these regions, paleolimnology may provide the only practical and relatively inexpensive means of reconstructing impact histories.

Keywords:   Acid precipitation, Bedrock, Callitriche, Deforestation, Eunotia, Frustulia, Global change, Industrial Revolution, Land use

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