The history of recent limnological changes and human impact on Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon

Journal of Paleolimnology
By: , and 



Hypereutrophic Upper Klamath Lake has been studied for almost 50 years to evaluate the nature, cause, and effects of its very productive waters. Mitigation of undesirable effects of massive cyanobacterial blooms requires understanding their modern causes as well as their history. Knowledge of the pre-settlement natural limnology of this system can provide guidelines for lake restoration and management of land and water use strategies to maximize the benefits of this aquatic resource. This investigation uses a paleolimnological approach to document the nature and chronology of limnological and biological changes in Upper Klamath Lake for the past 200 years, covering the time when the lake was first described until today. A 45-cm gravity core, dated by 210Pb and diatom correlations, was analyzed for diatoms, pollen, akinetes (resting spores) of the cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, reworked tephra shards, and sediment magnetic characteristics. Pollen profiles show little vegetation change during this time. In contrast, diatoms indicative of increased nutrient fluxes (P and Si) increase moderately, coinciding with the settlement of the region by Euro-Americans. Numerous settlement activities, including draining of lake-margin marshes, upstream agriculture and timber harvest, road construction, and boat traffic, may have affected the lake. Magnetic properties and reworked tephra suggest riparian changes throughout the basin and increased lithogenic sediment delivery to the lake, especially after 1920 when the marshes near the mouth of the Williamson River were drained and converted to agricultural and pasture land. Drainage and channelization also decreased the ability of the marshes to function as traps and filters for upstream water and sediments. Akinetes of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae record progressive eutrophication of Upper Klamath Lake beginning in the 20th century and particularly after 1920 when lake-margin marsh reclamation more than doubled. The coincidence of limnological changes and human activities following European settlement suggests a major impact on the Upper Klamath Lake ecosystem, although ascribing specific limnological changes to specific human activities is difficult.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The history of recent limnological changes and human impact on Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon
Series title Journal of Paleolimnology
DOI 10.1023/B:JOPL.0000019233.12287.18
Edition 151
Volume 31
Year Published 2004
Language English
Publisher Kluwer
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 165
Country United States
State Oregon
Other Geospatial Upper Klamath Lake
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table