Abstract

Analyses of 355 surface sediment samples (top cm) from Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron were carried out for organic carbon, carbonate carbon, Eh, pH, nitrogen and sediment texture. Similar analyses were carried out on a representative core from each lake at close intervals down to 20 cm. The distribution of organic matter in the sediments of each lake was related to the topographic features of the lakes. Organic carbon content was found to be directly proportional to the clay content of the sediment, ranging from less than 1 percent in the coarse nearshore sands to over 4 percent in the fine clay muds within the individual lake sub-basins. The organic carbon content of Lake Erie sediments was generally lower than that of Lakes Huron and Ontario, and is attributed to dilution of the sediments with coarser non-clay particles. Nitrogen was directly proportional to organic carbon with carbon-nitrogen ratios ranging from 7 to 13 in the surface sediment. Organic carbon and nitrogen decreased sharply from the surface down to about 10 cm in each core. The decrease is due partly to mineralization of organic matter by bottom organisms and partly to an increasing input of organic matter to the lakes in the last 30 years.

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