Recent sediments from two alpine lakes (> 3300 m asl) in the Colorado Front Range (USA) register marked and near-synchronous changes that are believed to represent ecological responses to enhanced atmospheric deposition of fixed nitrogen from anthropogenic sources. Directional shifts in sediment proxies include greater representations of mesotrophic diatoms and increasingly depleted ??15N values. These trends are particularly pronounced since ??? 1950, and appear to chronicle lake responses to excess N derived from agricultural and industrial sources to the east. The rate and magnitude of recent ecological changes far exceed the context of natural variability, as inferred from comparative analyses of a long core capturing the entire 14,000-year postglacial history of one of the lakes. Nitrogen deposition to these seemingly pristine natural areas has resulted in subtle but detectable limnological changes that likely represent the beginning of a stronger response to nitrogen enrichment.
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Anthropogenic nitrogen deposition induces rapid ecological changes in alpine lakes of the Colorado Front Range (USA)