• Karst, Tammy
  • Smol, John


Paleolimnological techniques were used to infer long-term changes in trophic status of Lake Opinicon (Ontario), a mesotrophic, shallow, macrophyte-dominated lake, and to assess whether these patterns support the hypothesis of 'alternative equilibria' proposed for shallow lake systems. Analysis of the diatom assemblages indicated cold, oligotrophic to mesotrophic, alkaline conditions during the period shortly following deglaciation (>11000 yr BP). With the establishment of an open spruce-woodland (ca. 11000 yr BP), benthic diatoms dominated, indicating shallow waters and the presence of macrophytes. Pieces of aquatic macrophytes also became common in the core. An increase in lake productivity to mesotrophic levels (diatom-inferred [TP] of 23 μg/L) occurred following the transition to a deciduous forest in the catchment ca. 7500 yr BP. Paleolimnological data did not indicate any significant change in limnetic nutrient concentrations resulting from the hemlock decline (ca. 4800 yr BP) or from extensive flooding with the construction of the Rideau Canal (1828-1832). Modest nutrient enrichment of the lake has occurred more recently with increasing agricultural and residential/recreational activities, with a diatom-inferred [TP] increase to 32 μg/L. However, compared to other, similarly-disturbed deep lakes in the area, Lake Opinicon showed much smaller changes in lakewater conditions, still maintaining a clear-water, mesotrophic state and a large macrophyte community.¶The apparent inertia of Lake Opinicon to changes in trophic status, as compared to other deep, near-by, stratifying lakes in southeastern Ontario, supports the 'alternative equilibria' hypothesis. Paleolimnological evidence suggests that Lake Opinicon has been in a clear-water, equilibrium state dominated by macrophytes since early in its development, and has displayed hysteresis to nutrient enrichment. These results may provide lake managers with important information for effective management strategies of shallow water systems in southeastern Ontario.