Musky Bay in Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, USA, is currently eutrophic. This large, shallow bay of an oligotrophic lake possesses the densest aquatic plant growth and a floating algal mat. Paleoecological reconstructions encompassing the last 130 years, were based on multiproxy analyses of sediment cores from three coring sites, two within the bay and one in the lake itself. These data were compared to historical records of the construction and expansion of two commercial cranberry bogs and shoreline residential homes to identify temporal and causal relations of eutrophication. The proxies investigated included: minor and trace elements; biogenic silica; and the diatom community. Post-depositional diagenesis of organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the upper 30 cm of the core obscured records of historical ambient nutrient concentrations in the bay obviating their usefulness for this purpose. In contrast, calcium, magnesium, and potassium concentration profiles appeared to reflect runoff of soil amendments applied to the cranberry bogs and aerial fertilizer spraying over the eastern bog adjacent to Musky Bay. The increase in aluminum content since about 1930 coincided with the historical trend in shoreland development and construction of the original commercial cranberry farm. The biogenic silica profile recorded a steady increase of nutrients to Musky Bay over the last several decades. Stratigraphic changes in the diatom community indicated that nutrient input began to increase in the 1940s and accelerated in the mid-1990s with the onset of a noxious floating algal mat. The diatom community indicates the bay has possessed a significant macrophyte community for at least the last 200 years, but increased nutrient input was manifested by a change in the composition, and an increase in the density of the epiphytic diatom community. Cranberry farming appeared to be the major source of nutrients because the diatom community changes occurred prior to the significant increase in residential housing.
Additional publication details
The role of shoreland development and commercial cranberry farming in a lake in Wisconsin, USA