Sediment cores were collected from Musky Bay, Lac Courte Oreilles, and from surrounding areas in 1999 and 2001 to determine whether the water quality of Musky Bay has declined during the last 100 years or more as a result of human activity, specifically cottage development and cranberry farming. Selected cores were analyzed for sedimentation rates, nutrients, minor and trace elements, biogenic silica, diatom assemblages, and pollen over the past several decades. Two cranberry bogs constructed along Musky Bay in 1939 and the early 1950s were substantially expanded between 1950?62 and between 1980?98. Cottage development on Musky Bay has occurred at a steady rate since about 1930, although currently housing density on Musky Bay is one-third to one-half the housing density surrounding three other Lac Courte Oreilles bays. Sedimentation rates were reconstructed for a core from Musky Bay by use of three lead radioisotope models and the cesium-137 profile. The historical average mass and linear sedimentation rates for Musky Bay are 0.023 grams per square centimeter per year and 0.84 centimeters per year, respectively, for the period of about 1936?90. There is also limited evidence that sedimentation rates may have increased after the mid-1990s. Historical changes in input of organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur to Musky Bay could not be directly identified from concentration profiles of these elements because of the potential for postdepositional migration and recycling. Minor- and trace-element profiles from the Musky Bay core possibly reflect historical changes in the input of clastic material over time, as well as potential changes in atmospheric deposition inputs. The input of clastic material to the bay increased slightly after European settlement and possibly in the 1930s through 1950s. Concentrations of copper in the Musky Bay core increased steadily through the early to mid-1900s until about 1980 and appear to reflect inputs from atmospheric deposition. Aluminum- normalized concentrations of calcium, copper, nickel, and zinc increased in the Musky Bay core in the mid-1990s. However, concentrations of these elements in surficial sediment from Musky Bay were similar to concentrations in other Lac Courte Oreilles bays, nearby lakes, and soils and were below probable effects concentrations for aquatic life. Biogenic-silica, diatom-community, and pollen profiles indicate that Musky Bay has become more eutrophic since about 1940 with the onset of cottage development and cranberry farming. The water quality of the bay has especially degraded during the last 25 years with increased growth of aquatic plants and the onset of a floating algal mat during the last decade. Biogenic silica data indicate that diatom production has consistently increased since the 1930s. Diatom assemblage profiles indicate a shift from low-nutrient species to higher-nutrient species during the 1940s and that aquatic plants reached their present density and/or composition during the 1970s. The diatom Fragilaria capucina (indicative of algal mat) greatly increased during the mid-1990s. Pollen data indicate that milfoil, which often becomes more common with elevated nutrients, became more widespread after 1920. The pollen data also indicate that wild rice was present in the eastern end of Musky Bay during the late 1800s and the early 1900s but disappeared after about 1920, probably because of water-level changes more so than eutrophication.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Nutrient, trace-element, and ecological history of Musky Bay, Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, as inferred from sediment cores