The limnological record of human impact on catchment land cover and on lake sedimentation during the historical period has been established for Pinto Lake in Central Coastal California. In addition, the sedimentary record of the ‘pre-impact’ condition preserves evidence of a climatic control on the nature of lake sedimentation. Chronological marker horizons have been determined using pollen data in combination with the documented land-use history and introductions of exotic species. Further chronological data have been determined using 14C and 137Cs. The impact of Mexican and Euro-American immigrants and their ‘imported’ land-use practices is clearly reflected in an order of magnitude increase in the rate of lake sedimentation to c. 9 kg m−2 year−1 (c. 2 cm year−1) between 1770 and 1850. Here, the occurrence of exotic plant species indicates disturbance as early as c. 1769–1797, whilst redwood deforestation between 1844 and 1860 represents the most significant human impact. Changes in the nature of sedimentation prior to this reveal a high degree of sensitivity to changes in precipitation where subtle decreases in lake level and the supply of runoff-derived mineral matter have resulted in two periods of organic lake sedimentation c. 650–900 and 1275–1750. Set against this background condition of high sensitivity, the dramatic impacts of Euro-American settlement are unsurprising.
Keywords: Central Coastal California - Human impact - Climate - Limnology - Mexican and Euro-American immigration
An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10113-006-0016-y