A paleolimnological approach was taken to aid the Grand Portage Reservation, in northeastern Minnesota, in determining reference conditions for lakes on the reservation. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians and the Science Museum of Minnesota, conducted a study to describe water quality (2000-08) and historical total phosphorus concentrations (approximately 1781-2006) for Swamp and Speckled Trout Lakes. Results from this study may be used as a guide in establishing nutrient criteria in these and other lakes on the Grand Portage Reservation.
Historical phosphorus concentrations were inferred through paleolimnological reconstruction methods involving diatom analysis and lead-210 dating of lake-sediment cores. Historical diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations in Swamp Lake ranged from 0.017 to 0.025 milligrams per liter (mg/L) based on diatom assemblages in sediment samples dated 1781-2005. Historical diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations in Speckled Trout Lake ranged from 0.008 to 0.014 mg/L based on diatom assemblages in sediment samples dated 1825-2006. In both lakes, historical changes in diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations did not exceed model error estimates, indicating that there has been minimal change in total phosphorus concentrations in the two lakes over about two centuries.
Nutrient concentrations in monthly water samples collected May through October during 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 were compared to the diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations. Total phosphorus concentrations from water samples collected from Swamp Lake during 2000-08 ranged from less than 0.002 to 0.160 mg/L (median= 0.023 mg/L) compared to diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations of 0.018 to 0.020 mg/L for 2002 to 2005. Total phosphorus concentrations in water samples collected from Speckled Trout Lake during 2000-08 were similar to those of Swamp Lake, ranging from less than 0.002 to 0.147 mg/L (median=0.012 mg/L), whereas the diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations were smaller, ranging from 0.009 to 0.010 mg/L for 2003 to 2006. Differences in total phosphorus concentrations between the two lakes may be because of differences in watershed characteristics, particularly the number of wetlands in the two watersheds. Similarities between recent total phosphorus concentrations in water-quality samples and diatom-inferred total phosphorus indicate that diatom-inferred phosphorus reconstructions might be used to help establish reference conditions. Nutrient criteria for Grand Portage Reservation lakes may be established when a sampling program is designed to ensure representative phosphorus concentrations in water samples are comparable to diatom-inferred concentrations.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water quality (2000-08) and historical phosphorus concentrations from paleolimnological studies of Swamp and Speckled Trout Lakes, Grand Portage Reservation, northeastern Minnesota