Profiles of percent carbon and nitrogen, carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratios and stable carbon (δ13C), and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopic ratios in organic matter from an 11.6 m core were used to reconstruct environments of deposition in the Swan Lake basin during the past 5300 YBP. The upper 6.5 m consisted of gyttja containing variable amounts of reddish brown-colored fine organic matter and calcium carbonate. It was followed by a 0.5 m sandy silt, which was followed by a 3.6 m reduced layer characterized by large quantities of black organic plant remains, sapropel, and then by another sapropel layer consisting mainly of well-sorted sapropelic sand with relatively low organic matter content. The C- and N-contents in the organic matter in the sediment profile ranged from 0.5 to 23% and from 0.02 to 2%, respectively. Carbon content were positively correlated to both N and clay content while carbon content was negatively correlated to sand content. Two major environmental phases in Swan Lake were apparent from large differences in the C and N data of the sediment organic matter. These include the sapropel (marsh) stage that stretched from approximately 5330 to 3930 YBP, and the following gyttja (open water stage). During the sapropel marsh plants identified in a previous pollen study as cattails and sedges proliferated and produced copious amounts of well-preserved organic matter. C/N ratios, δ13C values, and δ15N values in the sapropel were significantly different from those that characterized organic matter in the gyttja. During the gyttja δ13C values indicated that deep primary producers have dominated lake biomass. By utilizing bicarbonate as their C-source, the accumulating biomass became relatively enriched δ13C values. The presence of high sediment CaCO3 contents indicated more alkaline and deeper water conditions prevailed during the gyttja. Further refinement of the data suggested that each major phase initially contained an identifiable transition stage. During the sapropelic (initial marsh stage) which occurred before 5330 YBP, sand content gradually decreased as organic matter increased. As reflected by high C/N ratios and slightly enriched δ13C values, these sands appear to have contained sufficient permeability to promote partial mineralization of accumulated organic-N containing compounds. A short initial gyttja transition period from about 3930-3830 YBP occurred in which the sediment silt content was anomalously high relative that measured in the surrounding layers. The silt content suggests that this turbid transition layer can not be completely explained by sediment mixing via bioturbation. The silts appeared to have been associated with the sharp climate change that resulted in higher water-table conditions during the gyttja stage.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1007993329040
Journal Journal of Paleolimnology
Citation
Patterson, T, Brian McKillop, W. (W.), Kroker, S. (Sid), Nielsen, E. (Erik), & Reinhardt, E.G. (Eduard G.). (1997). Evidence for holocene environmental change from C/N ratios, and δ13C and δ15N values in Swan Lake sediments, western Sand Hills, Nebraska. Journal of Paleolimnology, 18(2), 121–130. doi:10.1023/A:1007993329040