Mineral aerosols from dust are an important influence on climate and on marine and terrestrial biogeochemical cycles. These aerosols are generated from wind erosion of surface soils. The amount of dust emission can therefore be affected by human activities that alter surface sediments. However, changes in regional- and global-scale dust fluxes following the rapid expansion of human populations and settlements over the past two centuries are not well understood. Here we determine the accumulation rates and geochemical properties of alpine lake sediments from the western interior United States for the past 5,000 years. We find that dust load levels increased by 500% above the late Holocene average following the increased western settlement of the United States during the nineteenth century. We suggest that the increased dust deposition is caused by the expansion of livestock grazing in the early twentieth century. The larger dust flux, which persists into the early twenty-first century, results in a more than fivefold increase in inputs of K, Mg, Ca, N and P to the alpine ecosystems, with implications for surface-water alkalinity, aquatic productivity and terrestrial nutrient cycling.
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Ecological impacts of N-deposition in a remote, high-elevation lake in the Three River Headwaters Region, Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau
Journal of Paleolimnology Open Access 03 September 2022
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This project was supported by an A. W. Mellon Foundation grant to J.C.N. with additional analytical support for the project provided by the US Geological Survey Earth Surface Dynamics Program. Additional support was provided by the National Science Foundation of the United States and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. P. Molnar, A. Townsend, G. Miller and four anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We also appreciate the assistance of the Limnological Research Center Core Facility at the University of Minnesota in core density measurements for this study and Dave DeMaster for assistance with 210Pb dating.
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Neff, J., Ballantyne, A., Farmer, G. et al. Increasing eolian dust deposition in the western United States linked to human activity. Nature Geosci 1, 189–195 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo133
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