In order to determine baseline conditions (pre-impact) and recent changes to lakes on the middle reach of the Yangtze River, China, a lake sediment core was extracted from Lake Wushan covering the last ca 150 years. Detailed chemical, biological (subfossil chironomids), and physical analyses of the lake sediments were undertaken. The data showed consistent trends of increased productivity since the early 1920s, notably significant changes in the chironomid fauna which were associated with changes in the sedimentological and stable isotope proxies. More typically eutrophic chironomid taxa first appeared around this time that had not been present in the lake since at least the 1860s. Further increases in productivity occurred around the 1950s which coincided with the local decline and extirpation of some chironomid taxa, particularly macrophyte associated taxa, which had been present in the lake since at least the late 19th Century. A chironomid-inferred water total phosphorus (CI-TP) reconstruction produced accurate levels of water TP compared with contemporary measurements (207.4 μg L-1 TP), and suggested that levels for the late 19th Century were relatively low (50-60 μg L-1 TP). These reconstructions illustrate the baseline levels that existed pre-impact and provide potential targets for restoration, but they also show the magnitude of human impact in this region, which has increased the nutrient content of Lake Wushan fourfold within the last ca 100 years.
lake sediment, eutrophication, human activity, stable isotopes, subfossil chironomids