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Baltica An International Journal on Earth Sciences
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Records of the anthropogenic influence on different origin
small lake sediments of Latvia
Karina Stankevica, Agnese Pujate, Laimdota Kalnina, Maris Klavins, Aija
Cerina, Anda Drucka
Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Latvia, Jelgavas
street 1, LV-1004, Riga, Latvia
Published online 10 December
To cite this Article: Stankevica, K., Pujate, A., Kalnina, L., Klavins, M., Cerina, A., Drucka, A., 2015. Records of the
anthropogenic influence on different origin small lake sediments of Latvia. Baltica, 28 (2), 135 Vilnius.
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.5200/baltica.201.
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URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5200/baltica.201. *** Journal ISSN 00673064. Journal EISSN 1648858x.
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since 1961 BALTICA Volume 28 Number 2 December 2015: 135–150
Karina Stankevica, Agnese Pujate, Laimdota Kalnina, Maris Klavins, Aija Cerina, Anda Drucka
Stankevica, K., Pujate, A., Kalnina, L., Klavins, M., Cerina, A., Drucka, A., 2015. Records of the anthropogenic inuence
on different origin small lake sediments of Latvia. Baltica, 28 (2), 135–150. Vilnius. ISSN 0067-3064.
Manuscript submitted 25 October 2015 / Accepted 30 November 2015 / Published online 10 December 2015.
© Baltica 2015
Abstract Sediments in lakes have been formed under the conditions of sensitive ecosystem functions as
historical records of micro- and macrocomponents. Besides others, lake sediments preserve macroremain and
chemical evidence reecting environmental changes and human impact. During the last centuries, sediment
composition has been inuenced by inconsistent urban and industrial developments. This article presents the
multi-proxy data obtained from studies of lake sediment composition, chemical analysis and macroremain
signatures in the upper sediment layer from tree small lakes of different origin: Lake Lilaste (lagoonal), Lake
Velnezers (glaciokarstic), and Lake Veveri (glacial). The studies of lake sediments revealed that human impact
is recognisable in the upper sediment layer of all investigated lakes, but at different depth from the sediment
surface. The most recognisable traces of anthropogenic inuence can be attributed to the increase of lead (Pb),
cadmium (Cd) concentration, number of plant macroremains and charcoal particles in all investigated lake
Keywords • gyttja • heavy metals • loss-on-ignition • plant macroremains • organic matter
Karina Stankevica, Agnese Pujate, Laimdota Kalnina (email@example.com), Maris Klavins, Aija Cerina, Anda
Drucka, Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Latvia, Jelgavas street 1, LV-1004, Riga, Latvia
Sediment accumulation conditions in lake ecosystems
are sensitive to the inuence human of both, natural
environmental conditions and anthropogenic activities,
which can cause changes in sediment composition (Pun-
ning et al 2004; Smol 2008). According to the numerous
studies of lake sediments, there were recognized con-
spicuous environmental changes during the last centu-
ries. Through the eld and laboratory investigations of
lake sediments it is possible to strive for a better under-
standing of the processes how anthropogenic inuence
can affect ecosystems and sedimentation conditions.
The major patterns of biostratigraphical and geochemi-
cal changes are detected by a range of multidisciplinary
studies investigating recent environmental changes
(Birks et al. 2004; Rose et al. 2004; Smol et al. 2005;
Stivrins et al. 2014; Kalnina et al. 2015).
Documenting, understanding and responding
to the present and future challenges posed by the
recent environmental changes in the relationship
between humans and surrounding environments
have become as an essential for the modern hu-
man society. Seve ral scientists support a new kind
of stratigraphy or technostratigraphy, marked by
the geologically accelerated evolution and diversi-
cation of technofossils driven by human purpose
(Haff 2014; Zalasie wicz et al. 2014). This leads to
the understanding of anthropogenic inuence which
can be characterized mainly as the result of urban
and industrial inconsis tent development over the
last several de cades affecting sediment composition
and sedimentation conditions (Steffen et al. 2011;
Cai et al. 2011; Wolfe et al. 2013). Chemical com-
position of lake sediments usually has been dis-
cussed from the viewpoint of pollution, but attention
to the character of other changes in sediment com-
position caused by anth ropogenic impact was not so
strongly highlighted. Attention to the presence and
values of heavy metals in lake sediments has been
given under exploration and evaluation of sapro-
pel (gyttja) as mineral resource in lakes of Latvia
(Alksnitis 1992; Sicovs 1998). Although these data
show only ave rage values of and do not give un-
derstanding of their uctuation during sediment ac-
cumulation. Relevancies of content and distribution
of trace and major elements in the Latvian topsoils
have been investigated by A. Gilucis (Gilucis 2007).
Values of heavy metal accumulation in the mosses
and soil have been carried out by Nikodemus and
Brumelis (1998) and the highest concentrations of
heavy metals (Cu, Pb, Ni, Co and Fe) have been
determined in the Riga and Rezekne region (Pujāte
2015; Stankevica et al. 2015). According earlier stu-
dies of lake sediments the metal concentrations in
sediments of lakes in Latvia are at a background le-
vels (Klavins et al. 1995, 2011).
In Latvia currently is available a small number
of multidisciplinary studies of lake sediment pro-
le, which includes both chemical and macroremain
analysis. Klavins et al. (1995, 2011) analysed trace
element concentration in sediments of lakes in Latvia
of different origin according to the factors inuenc-
ing element availability. It was found that the concen-
tration of metallic elements in sediments of lakes in
Latvia is low (Burton 2002; Klavins et al. 2011).
The aim of this study is to try to nd out the traces
of anthropogenic impact on lake sediments. Small
lakes compared to large lakes are more sensitive to
changes in environmental conditions in the lake and
its catchment area, thus they are well reected in the
lake sediments (Wetzel 2001; Meyers 2003; Punning
et al. 2004). It was important to nd out how records
of anthropogenic impact are reected in lakes of dif-
Lakes and lake sediments represent a subject of stu dies
on ecosystem dynamics focussing on the interaction
between biological, chemical and physical processes,
as determined by many different factors: the geologi-
cal structure and topography of the drainage basin, the
amount of precipitation, the inow and composition
of groundwater, human economic activities, biologi-
cal processes etc. (Last, Smol 2001; Berg lund 2003).
Nowadays lakes in Latvia occupy about 1.6% of the
territory. The largest part of lakes is of glacial ori-
gin, and their total area was signicantly larger dur-
ing the end of Late Weichselian, when depressions
were lled by glacier melting waters. Over the time
the shallowest and smallest lakes became ll-in and
gradually overgrown. Other signicant type of lakes
within the territory of Latvia are lagoonal lakes locat-
ed along the coasts of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of
Riga, Lagoonal lakes constitute young and dyna mic
systems (c. 3000–4000 years old), which, through a
fall in sea level, have been completely separated from
the sea, becoming freshwater basins (Eberhards, Sal-
tupe 2002; Rosentau et al. 2012).
The major patterns of changes in geochemistry
and biostratigraphy which can be suggested as an-
thropogenic inuence in small lake sediments of
Latvia are detected in multidisciplinary studies on
recent environmental changes. There are several pos-
sible factors that may have inuenced the recent geo-
chemical and biostratigraphical changes recorded in
studied lake sediments. However, in the current study
the main attention is given to the modications and
uctuations of major and trace element composition
of sediment layers accompanied by the results of loss
on ignition analysis and macroremain investigations
(Lepane et al. 2007). Sedimentation rate is one of the
most important parameters of the lakes dynamics,
which are conditioned by various factors of natural
and anthropogenic origin (Håkanson, Jansson 2002a)
and can be various in different lakes.
These shallower lakes more intensive accumulate
organogenic sediments and will overgrow faster.
Only a few lakes in Latvia have remained in a me-
sotrophic state in the result of natural overgrowing
and anthropogenic impact (Spriņģe et al. 2011). In
the territory of Latvia humans lived near the lakes
already since the Stone Age, somehow inuen cing
lake ecosystems and leaving traces in the lake sedi-
ments (Murniece et al. 1999; Bērziņš 2008; Ozo-
la et al. 2010). However, ancient human impact
on lakes was local and did not strongly inuenced
whole lake ecosystems. Human impact increased
gradually along the growing number of population
in the surrounding of lakes and their catchment
areas. Lake ecosystems became affected by prolonged
human economic activity in the Early Metal Age and
the Iron Age (Roberts 1998; Kalnina et al. 2004;
Staškova et al. 2013; Brown, Pluskowski 2014;
Stivrins et al. 2015). During the Medieval Age de-
nudation in the lake catchments areas, erosion and
terrestrial material transport and accumulation on
lake bottoms were caused by deforestation and agri-
cultural activities (Hoffman 2014). The cooling and
humidication of the climate during the Little Ice
Age also have contributed to the acceleration of the
It is important to determine the changes in lake
sediments by using multiproxy data and to prove how
lake sediments are vulnerable to anthropogenic im-
pacts (Stumm, Baccini 1978; Davies et al. 2005; Plat-
er et al. 2006). Investigation of sediment composition
from lakes can reveal uctuations of water level and
climatic changes. Only complex multiproxy data help
to make a reconstruction of environment and to as-
sess natural and human impact with certainty. This
is particularly signicant for the studies of lake sedi-
ments accumulated during the last centuries, because
result of these studies can determine evidence of rapid
recent environmental changes in lakes of Latvia (Alk-
snitis 1992; Klavins et al. 2011) including increase
of metal, particularly lead, concentration in the upper
layers of lake sediments.
Analysis of trace element accumulation in sedi-
mentary phases of lakes may reect the overall re-
gional pollution level, but analysis of trace element
accumulation patterns in sediment proles can help
to reconstruct history of anthropogenic impacts, and
provide information about trends of recent accumu-
lation (within last 300 years) and balance between
natural and human induced accumulation processes
(Klavins et al. 2012). It is stated that the main mecha-
nism of heavy metal dispersion in the environment
is atmospheric transport; therefore, anthropogenic
Cu and Pb contamination is widely distributed (Ren-
berg et al. 1994; Planchon et al. 2002: Pujāte 2015)
and has been detected in remote areas, including po-
lar ice caps (Hong et al. 1994).
DESCRIPTION OF STUDY SITES
Within this investigation selected tree small lakes of
different origin (Lake Lilaste has lagoonal, Lake Vel-
nezers glaciokarstic, and Lake Veveri glacial origin),
located close to highway or railway (Fig. 1) and con-
taining rich organic sediment layers.
Lake Lilaste is of lagoonal origin and is very sen-
sitive to the environmental changes. Lake Velnezers
is smallest from studied lakes and has glaciokarstic
origin (for general characteristics see Table 1). Lake
Veveri has glacial origin, is located in the Latgale
Upland at the eastern Latvia and has been included in
the study with aim to nd out peculiarities of anthro-
pogenic inuence in different nature regions.
Lake Lilaste (Fig. 1A) occupies the former lagoonal
area at the eastern coast of the Gulf of Riga, in the
eastern part of the Rigava Plain of the Coastal Low-
land (Turlajs 1999). Shores of the lake are at, sandy,
surrounded by dunes. The sandy bottom of Lake Li-
laste is covered by gyttja and mud. At the southern
part the lake is connected with the Lake Dunezers,
but from the east there is the inow of the River Mel-
nupe. Along the western shore of the lake runs A1
motorway Riga–Tallinn, named as ‘VIA Baltica’, and
railway at the distance of 100 m.
Lake Velnezers (Fig. 1B) is located in the Rigava
Plain of the Coastal Lowland within the accumu-
lation-abrasion plain of the Baltic Ice Lake and the
Littorina Sea Plain, traversed by the former valley of
the Daugava and the valleys of other hydrographic
networks and streams, in addition to which it is com-
plicated by dune massifs and wetland areas (Brangu-
lis et al. 2000). Lake Velnezers is formed in a gla-
ciokarstic depression between the ancient dunes. Lake
General characteristic of the studied lakes Compiled by A. Pujate and K. Stankevica, 2015
Water surface area, km21.87 0.04 0.075
Max. water depth, m 3.2 6.0 1.9
Origin Lagoonal Glaciokarstic Glacial
Character of hydrological regime Outow/inow Closed basin Outow
Trophic degree Eutrophic Dystrophic Eutrophic
Catchment basin landscape Green area, pine forest with
meadows, nearby railway and
Rural area with mixed for-
ests and meadows, highway
in 100 m distance
Location of investigated lakes and sampling sites (marked with red points): A – Lake Lilaste, B – Lake Velnezers,
C – Lake Veveri. Compiled by K. Stankevica, 2015
is without any outlet, fed mainly by groundwater. It
has at shores and sandy bottom (Lūmane 1998) and
brown-coloured water characteristic for dystrophic
lake. The colour of water results from high concen-
trations of humic substances and organic acids sus-
pended in the water from peat layer underlayed gyt-
tja at the bottom. Lake Velnezers is surrounded by
many residential buildings which construction started
in 1960 when the ambient pine forest was cut down,
but more intensive construction activities were car-
ried out in 1980s (Lūmane 1998).
Lake Veveri (Fig. 1C) has glacial origin and is lo-
cated in the morainic interhill depression in the Fei-
mani Hilly area of the Latgale Upland, eastern Latvia.
Nowadays it has at overgrowing shores. At the east-
ern shore the lake has outow by ditch owing to the
Lake Kovaliski. Lake Veveri is located close to mo-
torway A13 Daugavpils–Rezekne which runs at 0.2
km from the north-west shore of the lake.
Chemical, loss on ignition (LOI) and palaeobotani-
cal investigations of lake sediments using instrumen-
tal analytical methods can help reveal the processes
and impacts inuencing lake development and hu-
man pressures, especially during the last centuries
(Renberg et al. 2001). This study includes the eld
research, sediment sampling and consequent labora-
tory analysis in all three lakes. Sediment sampling
was carried out during 2010–2014 by coring from
ice and boat. Coring points in all three investigated
lakes were selected after the analysis of topographic
maps and taking into account characteristics of lake
and it surroundings. Sediment coring was carried out
closer to the possible pollution sources (highways).
Among the anthropogenic impacts the trafc inten-
sity and vehicles exhaust can be mentioned. The oils
and grease are leaked onto road surfaces from car and
truck engines and can be carried into lakes and ac-
cumulated in lake sediments (Walraven et al. 2013).
The data presented by Rose et al. (2004) suggests that
the impact of fossil-fuel combustion sources can be
observed within a radius of approximately 60–80 km,
thus affecting a large area.
Coring has been done by a 10-cm-diameter Rus-
sian-type peat sampler with 1.0 m long camera. Paral-
lel overlapping sediment cores from each studied lake
were taken and documented according to the require-
ments for sediment sampling for physical and chemi-
cal analysis; samples were packed into lm-wrapped
plastic semi-tubes and transported to the laboratory.
The collected sediments were subsampled in la-
boratory and prepared for analysis according to the
certain methodology. The main attention has been
given for upper 50 cm layer of sediments in Lake Li-
laste and Lake Velnezers. For Lake Veveri it was
analysed 200 cm of upper part of 800 cm thick gyt-
tja layer taking into account 14C dating results. It was
expected that human impact in sediments could ap-
pear 3000 cal yr BP when during Greek and Roman
civilization ourishing Pb/Ag mining and smelting
activities took a place 2700–1700 cal yr BP (Can-
delone et al. 1995). For the sediments from each lake
the major and trace element quantitative analysis was
performed, as well as LOI and plant macrofossils was
done with the aim to obtain complex data.
The data from studies on the concentrations and
levels of heavy metals in lake sediments can serve
as indicators of the levels of environmental pollu-
tion in the drainage basins of water-bodies (Salo-
mons, Förstner 1984). However, these data need to be
interpreted very carefully, because the sediment com-
position may also include metals of natural origin and
atmospheric pollution. Concentration of major and
trace elements (Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd, Cr, Co, Ni, Na, Mg,
K, Ca, Fe and Mn) were determined for sediments
from three freshwater lakes of Latvia (13 samples for
Lake Lilaste, 13 samples for Lake Velnezers and 15
samples for Lake Veveri) after acid digestion of sam-
ples (Csuros, Csuros 2002).
The sample pre-treatment procedure involved fol-
lowing steps. Air-dried lake sediment samples were
poured into glass beaker and dissolved in 25 ml of
concentrated HNO3 and 5 ml of H2O2. The samples
were digested by heating on a hotplate (Biosan) until
the evaporation of the liquid. Then dissolution was
repeated with 25 ml of concentrated HNO3 and heat-
ing was accelerated to boiling. The sample solutions
were cooled and ltered; the remains on the lter were
washed with deionised water until the ltrate volu-
me of 50 ml. Quantitative content of elements was
mea sured by atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS)
using ‘AAnalyst 503’ (Perkin Elmer).
Loss on ignition (LOI) method was applied for
sediment analysis in order to estimate the moisture
level and content of organic matter, carbonates and
mineral matter in the sediment 1 cm interval (Håkan-
son, Jansson 2002b; Heiri et al. 2001). Fluctuations
in values of these sediment characteristics point on
changes in sedimentation conditions and give addi-
tional information for data interpretation. Moisture
of sediments was determined after drying samples
at 105°C in drying oven. Content of organic and
carbonate matter was analysed by incinerating the
samples sequentially at 550°C for 4 h and at 900°C
for 2 h.
The results of plant macroremain analysis pro-
vide information about the quantity and composition
of aquatic plants during the deposition of a particu-
lar sediment layer, making possible to reconstruct
conditions in the basin during it development (Han-
non, Gailard 1997; Birks 2001). Plant remains, for
example, seeds tend not to be transported in large
distance (Dieffenbacher-Krall 2007), therefore pro-
vide a basis for assessing local changes in the lake
palaeoenvironment. Sediments for plant macrofossil
analysis were subsampled with interval 5 cm for Lake
Lilaste and Velnezers, 10 cm for Lake Veveri section
and prepared in accordance with standard method
(Warner 1990; Birks 2001), wet-sieving them with a
Macrofossils were examined systematically under
a Stemi 2000-C stereomicroscope at about 10–40×
magnication and identied by comparison with at-
lases (Katz et al. 1965, 1977; Cappers et al. 2006;
Velichkevich, Zastawniak 2006, 2008) and herbar-
ium collection reference materials (Laboratory of
Quaternary Environment of the Faculty of Geogra-
phy and Earth Sciences, University of Latvia; Latvian
Museum of Natural History), counted and tabulated
(Birks, Birks 1980).
The obtained data were treated and visualised
by several methods. The obtained radiocarbon dates
for sediments of Lake Velnezers (5 samples) have
been done at the Scottish Universities Environmen-
tal Research Centre – SUERC (GU) and for Lake
Veveri (5 samples) sediments at the Institute of
Geology, Tallinn University of Technology (Tln),
Estonia. Obtained 14C data were converted to cali-
brated age (cal yr BP), and, by means of Clam v.2.1
(Blaauw 2010) and R v.2.1.2 software (R Develop-
ment Core Team 2010). Sediment proles were visu-
alised using Tilia v.1.5.12 software (Grimm 2012).
In this study, selected statistical methods were used
to determine major and trace element accumulation
intensity and its’ affecting factors. The results were
processed by the Microsoft Excel 2010 Data analy-
ses correlation; data were plotted and visualised using
Adobe Illustrator CS6.
The LOI analysis show changes of metal accumula-
tion in Lake Lilaste sediments during the sediment
formation at the depth of 5 cm from surface and also
in the layer of 35–45 cm, where obtained values of
mineral matter content increased (Fig. 2A). Most
likely that it is related to the soil erosion in catchment
area. The land cover in this region is very sensitive
because of sandy soils.
Data of chemical analysis of the upper layer of
Lake Lilaste sediments (50 cm) revealed that Cr
concentration is tended to increase (16.5–22.6 mg/
kg) and accelerating changes have occurred at the
depth of 35–10 cm. As well as other heavy elements,
also concentration of Co and Ni has tendency to in-
crease evenly from the lower sediment layers to the
top. Concentration of Cu and Zn also has tendency
to increase but with more considerable uctuations,
for example, value of Cu and Zn concentration at
the depth of 34 cm were 4.9 mg/kg and 31 mg/kg,
respectively, while the values rise up at upper sedi-
The sediments of Lake Lilaste contain high Fe
concentration (up to 52 583 mg/kg, on average
43 813 mg/kg) in whole sediment section. It is not
a characteristic for lake sediments in Latvia, where
usually Fe concentration is around 20 000 mg/kg
(Klavins et al. 1995; Jankēvica et al. 2012; Stankevi-
ca et al. 2012).
Pb concentration in average is 8.6 mg/kg, for
studied Lake Lilaste sediments at the depth interval
34–50 cm, while from the depth of 34 cm upwards
to top Pb concentration increase from 18.5 mg/kg to
35.7 mg/kg. In generally Pb concentration in sedi-
ment section uctuate similarly as for Zn, from the
depth of 30 cm to the top layer of sediments.
It was expected that the changes in metal com-
position of sediments will appear at the depth of
40 cm (thin silty gyttja layer) because of changes in
sediment composition detected by loss on ignition
method. However, obvious changes in analysed
ele ment concentration values were observed at the
depth of 34 cm, when concentration dropped and
then increased rapidly, except for Cd. Concentra-
tion of Cd on average was high (about 3.0 mg/kg)
at the depth of 22–29 cm compared to the Cd ave-
rage value of background which was only 0.3 mg/
kg. Such rapid changes of Cd concentration may be
an indicator for human activities in the catchment
area of the lake.
Positive correlations were observed for Cr-Co-Ni-
Cu-Zn-Fe-K-Mg after Lake Lilaste sediment analysis
at depth 0–50 cm (Fig. 2A). It is supposed, that car-
bonates positive correlate with Ni, Co, Mn, K and Mg,
but negative correlate with mineral matter. Cd has no
correlation. Ca has positive correlation with Na and
Mn. Pb has positive correlation only with Ni. Element
correlation analysis revealed that Lake Lilaste sedi-
ments are inuenced by anthropogenic impact and it
can be assessed as the zone of natural geochemical
barriers for input waters from the River Melnupe and
the Lake Dunezers to the Baltic Sea.
Plant macrofossil analysis was carried out from the
sediments sampled close to the lakeshore (Fig. 3), where
submergent and oating aquatic plants characteristic
of eutrophic lakes nowadays occur (Eņģele, Sniedze-
Kretalova 2013). In the upper 10 cm of the lake sedi-
ments idioblasts of water lily Nymphaea were identi-
ed, indicating that water lilies grew in the lake, even
though no seeds were found (Fig. 3). Sediments in the
depth interval 55–15 cm are rich in aquatic fauna, par-
ticularly with Cladocera, while at the depth of 15 cm
they almost disappear. Charcoal fragments – one of
the indicators of human impact – were found in small
amounts already at 55 cm depth, and were present in
greater quantity starting from 45 cm. This boundary
coincides with the disappearance of pine bark frag-
ments in the sediments (Fig. 3).
Chemical analysis of Lake Velnezers sediments
(Fig. 4A) showed that the highest concentration of
heavy metals was detected for Pb, reaching 75.5 mg/
kg. That can be related mainly to the air and sur-
face water transport and car internal combustion en-
gine activities. Lake Velnezers is located in the area
where the road enters the catchment area of the lake;
therefore, Pb pollution by airborne particles may ap-
pear (as the result of the movement of air masses).
Concentration of Cd in Lake Velnezers sediments
was found in a small amount, 2.14 mg/kg. Cd may
release into environment from burning diesel fuel
and subsequently may air-assimilate in sediments
Metal concentration in the lake sediments increased
from the depth of 15 cm and above, but the largest val-
ues reached at the depth of 5 cm where Ni concentra-
tion was 15.1 mg/kg, Co 3.9 mg/kg and Cr 25.7 mg/
kg. These elements in the environmental samples usu-
ally are found incorporated in chemical compounds,
which, like Pb and Cd, may be harmful and probably
point on anthropogenic impact, because background
values are signicantly lower. The diagram created
according to the data of chemical analysis of Lake
Velnezers sediments (Fig. 4A) revealed that concen-
tration of elements is signicantly greater in the very
upper sediment layer in comparison with lower ones
at the depth of 25–50cm. It points on strong increase
Fig. 2 (A) Sediment composition according Loss on Ignition analysis and major and trace element concentration (mg/
kg) diagrams from Lake Lilaste upper 50 cm sediment layer; (B) Signicant element correlations (P > 0.01; N=15). Black
lines negative correlation, white lines – positive. Compiled by A. Pujate and K. Stankevica, 2015
Fig. 3 Plant macrofossil diagram from upper sediment layer from Lake Lilaste sediments. Compiled by A. Pujate and K.
Fig. 4 (A) Sediment composition according Loss on Ignition analysis and trace element concentration (mg/kg) diagrams
Lake Velnezers upper 50 cm sediment layer; (B) Signicant element correlations (P > 0.01; N=15). Black lines negative
correlation, white lines – positive. Compiled by A. Pujate and K. Stankevica, 2015
of anthropogenic inuence characterised by intensive
metal accumulation (Zerbe et al. 1999).Results of
chemical analysis of Lake Velnezers sediments re-
ect that in the upper layer of sediments accumulated
metals concentration was three times higher than in
the sediments at the lake bottom.
The range of concentration of Cu, Pb and Zn dis-
played great spatial variability of elements in the lake
sediments which suggests anthropogenic origin of
these elements. Chemical analysis of Lake Velnez-
ers sediments (Fig. 4A) showed strong inuence level
that can be explained by its location in an urban en-
vironment, as well as the fact that the lake is water-
less, i.e., accumulated elements assimilate and do not
Statistically signicant analyse of Lake Velnezers
sediments (Fig. 4B) shows that only Na has no any
correlation. All other elements Mg-K-Ca-Fe-Mn-Cr-
Co-Ni-Cu-Zn-Cd-Pb-Carbonates and Mineral matter
has negative correlation with organic matter and posi-
tive links to each other. It is supposed that metallic
elements are carried in lake with mineral matter and
carbonates including air pollution and inow waters
from the lake catchment basin. Lake Velnezers is si-
tuated in urban area with apartment buildings, roads
and streets. Local people use the lake for recreation
over the year especially at summer; municipality reg-
ularly reap grass, bushes and remove biomass from
the lake catchment area which is natural barrier zone
for anthropogenic contamination.
According plant macroremain analysis of lower
lake sediment layer (20–50 cm) is represented by
peaty gyttja rich in macroremains containing differ-
ent species of plant remains (Fig.5). In the upper layer
of sediments (upper 20 cm) of Lake Velnezers there
were not found seeds, possibly it was due to the sedi-
mentation density. Fragments of pine (Pinus sylvest-
ris) needles were found in lightly decomposed in two
layers (20–25 cm depth), while birch (Betula sect. Al-
bae) nutlets were found almost in all plant macrofos-
sil records of the sediments (Fig. 5).
From terrestrial plants in the upper layer remains
of reeds were found, but they were not detected in
the lower lake sediment layers; such species as com-
mon spike-rush Eleocharis palustris, hare’s-tail cot-
tongrass Eriophorum angustifolium, toad rush Juncus
bufonius, compact rush Juncus conglomeratus, thread
rush Juncus liformis were recognized. From aquatic
plants stone-fruits were found belonging to least Bur-
reed Sparganium minimum (at the depth of 40 and
55 cm) which usually is growing in shallow marshes,
ponds and streams (Kaul 2000).
In this upper layer also spore-bearing were found,
dominating by moss leaves Sphagnum (Sph. angus-
tifolium, Sph. magellanicum, Sph. subsecundum)
(mainly in the upper layer of 30 cm) and Hypnum
(Drepanocladus). In the lake sediments moss leaves
enter with ushing from the steep shores of the lake.
Increased amount of Hypnum and Sphagnum moss in
this area may be a sign of bogging of the lake shore.
Increased number of charcoal was detected in the up-
per layers of sediments in comparison to the lower
lake sediment layers (not shown in the diagram).
However, the charcoal appears throughout all lake
sediment record. In the upper sediment layer large
number and variety of terrestrial plant remains were
found. This can indicate the inow of nutrients, the
base of plant nutrition, promoting the growth condi-
tions, leading to the eutrophication of lakes and over-
Fig. 5 Plant macrofossil diagram from Lake Velnezers sediments. 0 cal yr BP=1950 AD. Compiled by A. Pujate and
K. Stankevica, 2015
The data derived by LOI from Lake Veveri show
that in the lake sediment composition organic mat-
ter dominates, while carbonates are almost absent
(Fig. 6A) Chemical analysis of Lake Veveri sedi-
ments revealed almost constant concentration of
metals (Cr, Co, Ni, Cu) in the upper 50 cm of sedi-
ments. Accelerated changes of Cr, Co, Ni, Cu con-
centration were observed at the depth of 75 cm when
the measured values were almost two times higher.
The proportion of sediment components at this depth
varied, the amount of mineral particles increased to
Cd and Pb concentration can be assessed as low
(on average 0.25 and 3.00 mg/kg, respectively), but
starting at the depth of 60 cm and above the con-
centration increased rapidly (on average 1.29 and
18.7 mg/kg, respectively). In the Lake Veveri values
of Cd concentration rise up rapidly at the time dated
by ~590 cal yr BP, and then 300 cal yr BP values
fall back to natural level, as it was observed also in
the case of Lake Lilaste. Cd during last 300 years has
tendency to slow increase in all studied lakes.
Statistically signicant element correlations from
the sediment analysis of Lake Veveri which is situ-
ated in the rural area shows two groups of elements
that have no links to each other. The characteristics of
positive correlation among Na, Mn and Fe (Fig. 6B)
provide that these elements are of natural origin.
Positive correlation was observed also for Mg-K pair
that can be explain as an inuence of use of fertiliz-
ers in the lake catchment area. Pb has negative cor-
relation with organic matter and positive links with
mineral matter, Co and Cu. These data provide that
heavy metals in the lake sediments could be runoff
from the pollution induced by trafc on the motorway
A13 Daugavpils–Rezekne. The motorway lays in the
Fig. 6 (A) Sediment composition according Loss on Ignition analysis and major and trace element concentrations (mg/
kg) diagrams Lake Veveri upper 200 cm sediment; (B) Signicant element correlations (P > 0.01; N=15). Black lines
negative correlation, white lines – positive. Compiled by K. Stankevica, 2015
lake catchment area, only 200 m to the west part of
the lake shore.
The results of macrofossil analysis discovered the
dominance of birch plant macroremain (Fig. 7) in
the upper layer of the lake sediments, indicating the
presence of birch in the surrounding area. There were
also found macroremains of pine and spruce trees.
Directly in the upper 50 cm of the lake sediments
only three species of limnic plants were found, i.e.,
Characeae (oogonium), consisting of Chara sp. and
Nitella sp., perfoliate pondweed Potamogeton perfo-
liatus and Numphaea alba. Chara usually grows in
mesothropic lakes in Latvia. These plants are form-
ing extensive underwater carpets of up to 4 m deep
in lakes. This aspect can be observed that there were
more tops Chara remains (oogonia), aquatic plants
reduce remains (at the depth of 0–30 cm and 165–
210 cm). Perhaps it shows the water level uctua-
tions in Lake Veveri. In comparison, in other lakes it
is possible to detect that with the increase of Chara
also the number of cladocerans macroremains is in-
creasing in lake sediments (Pujate 2015). Chara and
perfoliate pondweed Potamogeton perfoliatus can be
found in brackish water habitats and calcareous ponds
(Godfrey, Wooten 1979). Perfoliate pondweed Pota-
mogeton perfoliatus is among very tolerant species,
known to persist in very nutrient-rich lakes (Sand-
Jensen et al. 2008) and coverage in shallow water ar-
eas (Lu et al. 2012).
Perfoliate pondweed Potamogeton perfoliatus
is the one of most common species of pondweed
in Latvia (Stankevica et al. 2015) and Lithuania
(Gryguc et al. 2013). The sediments of Lake Veveri
are rich in Cladocera remains up to 50 cm, but they
almost disapear in the upper sediment layers. In deep-
er part of the lake sediments have been found remains
of bulrush Typha sp., holly-leaved naiad Najas ma-
jor, slender naiad Najas exilis, water-lily Nuphar
sp., bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata and water-soldier
Stratiotes aloides. Water-soldier Stratiotes aloides
are characteristic species for standing, eutrophic wa-
Lake sediments have a high potential for accumulat-
ing pollutants, because in the hydrological cycle less
than 1% of metals actually occur in dissolved form
in the lake water; more than 99.9% occur in the sedi-
ments (Salomons 1998). The lakes chosen for study
are of different origin, however the results obtained
from sediment analysis show that changes in compo-
sition of the lake partly caused be human activity. As
a result of human impact, changes have taken place
in the supercial sediments, which is connected with
the intensication of wind transport and dune migra-
tion, as a result of the levelling of dunes (at Lake Vel-
nezers, Lake Lilaste), changes of lake catchment area
sizes for all studied lakes.
The results of LOI analysis show that organic and
mineral matter varies 40–60% in the composition of
upper layer sediments in studied lakes, while values
of carbonates very low, but with tendency to slightly
increase in the very upper sediment layer. In general
the signicant amount of carbonates in lake sediments
expands along with an increase of quantity of Chara
(Apolinarskaa et al. 2011). But in our study amount of
Chara is increasing in Lake Veveri in the upper layer
of sediments (0–25 cm) without increase of carbo-
nates. This is probably due to another para meter such
as the depth of water in the lake, the chemical compo-
sition of lake water and lake bed sediment character
or some other parameters.
Plant macrofossil analysis provides a clear indica-
Fig. 7 Plant macrofossil diagram from Lake Veveri sediments. Compiled by A. Cerina and K. Stankevica, 2015
tion of lake overgrowing, reected in an increase in
the quantity and species diversity of seeds of plants
growing in shallow, slowly owing, nutrient-rich wa-
ters, along with an increase in the quantity of seeds
of damp-loving plants. These trends are observable
in the change in macrofossil composition in the sedi-
ments of Lake Velnezers, where remains of damp-
loving and wetland plants are identiable in the 70–
0cm interval, including sedges, common spike-rush,
common cotton-grass, toad rush etc. Aquatic plants,
on the other hand, are represented only by least bur-
reed, which generally grows in wetlands, ponds and
streams; this indicates intensive overgrowing of the
lake. The presence of Nitzschia acicularis in the su-
percial sediment layers indicates eutrophication,
which was found in uppermost layers of Lake Lilaste
(10–0 cm) sediments and in Lake Ummis (Stasko-
va et al. 2014; Pujate 2015).
It should be mentioned that in the upper 40 cm
layers of Lake Lilaste and Lake Velnezers sediments
appear wood charcoal. A greater concentration of
charcoal fragments occurs in this interval of the sedi-
ments, testifying to human activities in the drainage
basin of the lake, possibly with tree-cutting and burn-
ing or forest res. According radiocarbon dating of
sediments containing higher concentration of char-
coal in Lake Velnezers was accumulated during 80–
180 cal yr BP. It can be caused by changes in the lake
catchment area, such as forest res and anthropogenic
activities like forest clearance and agriculture, typi-
cally increase and enlarge the general rate of erosion
and sediment transportation into the lakes (Staškova
et al. 2014).
One of the most easily traceable indicators is the
pronounced increase in the concentration of heavy
metals within the supercial sediment layer, testify-
ing to an increase in human impact during the last
century. Content of heavy metals in the upper 25 cm
of the Lake Velnezers sediments signicantly in-
crease (Pb 137 mg/kg, Ni 15.1 mg/kg, Cu 78.6 mg/kg,
Zn 535 g/kg, Cr 25.6 mg/kg) which point on indus-
trial pollution. Likewise, research on the sediments of
Lake Nommerjarv in Estonia has shown an increase
in heavy metal quantity in the result of human im-
pact (Marzecová et al. 2011). Values of chrome in-
crease in upper part (0–20 cm) of the Lake Lilaste
sediments but the maximal values of chrome have
been found at the depth interval 12–14 cm reaching
22.6 mg/kg. In the Lake Lilaste sediment section iron
values is very high in the upper 15cm and reach more
than 50,000 mg/kg. High iron concentration has been
found also in the upper sediment layer of the Lake
Velnezers – 15,000 mg/kg.
Many investigations and observations lead to the
consideration that trafc is one of the main sources
of lead (Pb) pollution. As a result, traces from pos-
sible pollution caused by trafc appear to be as one
of the most important markers of anthropogenic im-
pact revealed in lake sediments. Trafc development
in Latvia started in the beginning of the 20th century
with the rst cars appearing in 1901. Number of cars
increased gradually during the rst half of the 20th
century; for example, in 1956 intensive road building
development was accomplished and 53 asphalt fac-
tories were operating. One of the most clearly recog-
nisable signs of human impact is the pronounced in-
crease in the concentration of heavy metals, including
Pb, in the supercial layers of all of the lakes under
study, which in the sediments of Lake Velnezers is
dated to back ~100 cal yr BP. According to data from
research on Lake Velnezers, the reection of human
activities is pronounced in sediments accumulating
60–50 years ago, when intensive construction and
road trafc began in the area around Lake Velnezers
(Pujāte et al. 2014).
Due to the location of studied lakes the presence
of trace metals in sediments can come from anthro-
pogenic sources and relatively higher concentration
of elements is not likely to be of natural environmen-
tal origin. Use of fertilizers in the catchment areas of
lakes could contaminate a lake with minor trace ele-
ment concentrations typically as detected in the study.
In early 1990’ies, dramatic reduction in industrial and
agricultural activities had taken place due to socio-
economic and political crisis of former Soviet Un-
ion (Klavins et al. 2001). Thus, e.g., in Lake Veveri
catchment area pollution by agricultural fertilizers
has decreased. Recent socio-economic recovery has
increased anthropogenic pressure, but still it is lower
than before 1990’s. Other potential anthropogenic
sources of trace elements include runoff of surface
water in the urban environment, like in the case of
Heavy metals can come from some natural sourc-
es such as minerals in rocks, vegetation, sand, and
salt. However signicant increase of heavy metals in
sediments, especially Pb and Cd is caused by long
distance atmospheric transportation (Pacyna 1987;
Braennvall et al. 1999). This study has shown that
sediments of the studied lakes are polluted with heavy
metals. The comparison of data shows the highest
major and trace element concentration (mg/kg) con-
centrations are in Lake Velnezers sediments, which
is located in the urban area. For example lead values
in Lake Velnezers sediments reach 137 mg/kg, which
is signicantly higher than in Lake Lilaste (18.5 mg/
kg to 35.7 mg/kg) and Lake Veveri (18.7 mg/kg).
However, even the highest Pb concentrations in
comparison with detected metal concentration in the
West European countries (de Boer et al. 2001; Mar-
tin 2004; Wildi et al. 2004; Thevenon et al. 2011;
Ong et al. 2013) in studied lake sediments is low.
The results of research on the composition of the
small lake sediments, applying a set of multidiscipli-
nary research methods, allow to make assessment of
environmental changes and the character of human
impact during the time of deposition of the super-
cial sediments in studied lakes of different origin.
Composition and changes in macroremain analysis
reect intensication of the overgrowing and eu-
trophication processes in the lakes and supplemented
with data on the chemical analysis point on anthro-
pogenic inuence on sediment composition. Increase
of macroremain amount in lake supercial sediments
indicates that the lakes under study have a tendency
of increased eutrophication, which has intensied in
recent centuries due to human activities.
Independently of the location and origin of studied
lakes, an increased concentration of heavy metals, in
particular Pb and Cd, has been found in the composi-
tion of supercial sediments, possibly connected with
the inow of surface waters containing Pb into the
lake and with regional atmospheric emissions. How-
ever the several times higher concentration and more
expressed increase of heavy metal has been found in
Lake Velnezers located in the urban area.
The obtained data has provided evidence of in-
creasing anthropogenic inuence in the sediments of
all the lakes under study, regardless of whether they
are located in a rural or an urban environment. The
most recognisable traces of anthropogenic inuence
can be attributed to the sharp increase of the amount
of lead (Pb), macroremains and charcoal presence in
analysed lake sediments.
This study was supported by the European Social
Fund within the project “Support for Doctoral Stud-
ies at University of Latvia”. Authors sincere gratitude
is expressed to Dr. Miglė Stančikaitė (Vilnius) and
Professor Valdis Segliņš (Rīga) for valuable com-
ments and advices. Zane Vincevica–Gaile thoroughly
assisted in English language revision.
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