Spatio-temporal variations in the geochemistry of Laguna Salada de Chiprana, NE Spain

Connor Doyle, Juan Pablo Corella, Stefan Schröder, Harald Strauss, Thomas Bishop, Jonathan Yarwood, Blas Valero-Garcés

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Hypersaline lakes are sensitive and increasingly threatened ecological and depositional environments that are host to a diverse spectrum of industrial services, natural resources, and environmental processes. Furthermore, they are also important repositories of high-resolution palaeoenvironmental information and are potentially key archives in the reconstruction of environmental, climatic conditions and past human impacts in areas where other such repositories may not be available. Many saline lakes are threatened by increased farming and irrigation practices and the effects of global warming. Geochemical XRF analyses of a transect of sediment cores from Laguna Salada de Chiprana, a permanent hypersaline lake in the Iberian Peninsula, provide insights into geochemical processes and palaeoenvironmental changes occurring at the site throughout the last 300–400 years. Key changes identified within the sequence are defined both from a spatial and temporal aspect and characterise the profundal and littoral sub-environments of the lake. Initially, the onset of a phase of widespread agriculture and irrigation in the region occurred in the late 16–17th century to ~1850AD and was associated with relative increases in lake levels. This was followed by decreasing lake levels between 1850 and 1950AD, likely associated with increasing evaporative processes and decreased irrigation returns to the lake, which also allowed for increased organic productivity in the profundal setting. This may have been associated with the transition of the site to a wetland-type setting, where biological processes were able to flourish in the shallower central depocentres of the lake. In sequence, the introduction of farm machinery and changing irrigation patterns occurred around 1950, causing small increases in lake levels, colonization by charophytes as well as increased organic productivity in the littoral setting, likely due to the establishment of suitable environments for biological processes to occur in the shallower margins of the lake when water levels rose. From this period to the present day, slow drawdown of the lake has occurred coupled with increasing management of the site by the regional government, leading to several phenomena. Evaporative processes are high throughout the lake; there are falling but highly variable water levels and there is a segmentation of organic productivity, whereby falling lake levels permit increased organic productivity in the profundal setting but decrease productivity in the littoral setting due to the establishment of harsh evaporitic and erosive conditions in this area. The reconstruction reveals the high sensitivity of Lake Chiprana as an environmental archive and illustrates the need to utilise multiple sediment cores for accurate palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of saline lakes due to the strong variability in depositional and geochemical sub-environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number381
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2022


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