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Reconstructions of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental data from sediment records require a thorough knowledge of the physical, chemical and biological factors that influence sediment-formation processes and signal preservation in lake sediments. Lake Żabińskie, an eutrophic hardwater lake located in northeastern Poland (Masurian Lake District), provides an unique environment for the investigation of processes that lead to the varve formation. During a two-year long observation period we investigated limnological and hydrochemical conditions within the water column, recent sediment fluxes and laminations preserved in the sediments of this lake to understand the relationship between the lake water properties and the sediment formation processes. We demonstrate that different mixing patterns may occur in Lake Żabińskie, from dimictic to meromictic depending on the meteorological conditions. Regardless of the water mixing pattern, the lake was stratified during much of the year which led to significant differences between surface and near-bottom water environments. The hypolimnion was characterized by higher conductivity and anoxic conditions with only short periods of better oxygenation, which created conditions ideal for the formation and preservation of biogenic varves. The material collected from the sediment trap revealed notable changes in sediment fluxes with characteristic spring maxima and, optionally, a second late fall maxima. Considerable variability was also observed for the fluxes of total organic carbon, biogenic silica and calcite. Microscopic investigation of the topmost sediments revealed a complex structure of the varves showing a distinct spring calcite lamina followed by several fine calcite laminae interbedded with diatom-rich laminae and, finally, by an organic-rich lamina with minerogenic admixtures deposited during winter. This seasonal variability was also reflected in the chemical composition inferred from high-resolution XRF measurements which allowed for the recognition of individual seasons within one varve. A characteristic annual succession of elemental composition followed a distinct pattern: spring was marked with a silica peak followed by a major calcium peak; during summer and fall minor calcium peaks occurred as well as maxima in iron and sulphur; winter was characterized by a peak in potassium. This study shows a remarkable potential of the sediment record from Lake Żabińskie as a high-resolution paleoenvironmental archive.
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