USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications


Stable isotopes (d13C and d15N) of sedimented organic matter as indicators of historic lake trophic state.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Thomas J. Whitmore

Document Type


Publication Date





We explored the use of carbon and nitrogen isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) in sedimented organic matter (OM) as proxy indicators of trophic state change in Florida lakes. Stable isotope data from four 210Pb-dated sediment cores were compared stratigraphically with established proxies for historical trophic state (diatom-inferred limnetic total phosphorus, sediment C/N ratio) and indicators of cultural disturbance (sediment total P and 226Ra activity). Diatom-based limnetic total P inferences indicate a transition from oligo-mesotrophy to meso-eutrophy in Clear Lake, and from eutrophy to hypereutrophy in Lakes Parker, Hollingsworth and Griffin. In cores from all four lakes, the carbon isotopic signature of accumulated OM generally tracks trophic state inferences and cultural impact assessments based on other variables. Oldest sediments in the records yield lower diatom-inferred total limnetic P concentrations and display relatively low δ13C values. In the Clear, Hollingsworth and Parker records, diatom-inferred nutrient concentrations increase after ca. AD 1900, and are associated stratigraphically with higher δ13C values in sediment OM. In the Lake Griffin core, both proxies display slight increases before ~1900, but highest values occur over the last ~100 years. As Lakes Clear, Hollingsworth and Parker became increasingly nutrient-enriched over the past century, the δ15N of sedimented organic matter decreased. This reflects, in part, the increasing relative contribution of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria to sedimented organic matter as primary productivity increased in these waterbodies. The Lake Griffin core displays a narrow range of both δ13C and δ15N values. Despite the complexity of carbon and nitrogen cycles in lakes, stratigraphic agreement between diatom-inferred changes in limnetic total P and the stable isotope signatures of sedimented OM suggests that δ13C and δ15N reflect shifts in historic lake trophic state.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Journal of Paleolimnology, 22(2), 205-221. doi:10.1023/A:1008078222806. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.