Lake sediments are integrators of watershed wide environmental information that includes bedrock geology, glacial overburden, vegetation, hydrology and land use. Lake sediments were collected from an area covering approximately 13,600 km2 from the Gowganda and Temagami regions to determine the geochemical background conditions representing different bedrock types. For the entire dataset, the median value for arsenic in lake sediment was 2.6 mg/kg, well within the prescribed limits indicating that the Canadian national objective for arsenic in sediments for the protection of aquatic life (17 mg/kg). Overall, the vast majority of lake sediment samples (97.2%) were below the 17 mg/kg Canadian objective for the protection of aquatic life, however, catchments with Nipissing Diabase had the highest background levels for arsenic (10 mg/kg) with some lakes ranging up to 30 mg/kg. The major geological controls influencing changes in lake sediment geochemistry were determined using random forest classification and principal component analysis (PCA). Random forest classification was able to identify which geological province the samples were derived from and the dominant rock types in the sample catchment with respectable accuracy. PCA revealed strong spatial relationships between lake sediment geochemistry and bedrock geology, particularly a strong relationship between Nipissing Diabase in the watershed of the lake and the cobalt-type mineralization indicator elements in the lake sediment including naturally higher levels of arsenic. Within the samples that exceeded regulatory standards, over half the samples that exceeded the regulatory objectives were located in watersheds that contained Nipissing Diabase in their catchment. This study demonstrates that unique geochemical assemblages can be associated with specific geological areas which is of interest to exploration geologists, for target generation and prospecting, and to environmental policy makers, for site-specific restoration targets.

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Environmental Earth Sciences
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Sprague, D.D. (Dale D.), & Vermaire, J. (2018). The landscape-scale relationship between lake sediment geochemistry and catchment bedrock composition from the Temagami and Gowganda areas of Northeastern Ontario, Canada. Environmental Earth Sciences, 77(12). doi:10.1007/s12665-018-7625-x