Calibration and application of a sediment accumulation rate model-A case study

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


A mechanistic mass balance model for sediment accumulation rate (SAR) that accommodates the dry density and burial velocity of solids and the depth dependency of porosity was tested and applied to Onondaga Lake, New York, for a 130-year period. The modeling for this case study is supported by a rich history of multiple anthropogenic drivers and coupled date horizons from the paleolimnological record, characterization of physical attributes of the sediments, and long-term monitoring of the water column and lake inputs. The consistency of predictions of SAR and measurements of downward flux of suspended particulate material (DFSPM) from a long-term sediment trap program was also evaluated. The model was demonstrated to perform well in simulating the lake's history of SAR, which was supported by 10 different depth-date horizons. This history for 100 years was regulated by the production of soda-ash at an adjoining industry, which enhanced autochthonous formation and deposition of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), proportional to the level of production of this chemical. The SAR was extraordinarily high (~5 kg m-2 yr-1) during the 40 years of peak soda-ash production. An abrupt, more than 2-fold decrease in SAR occurred when the industry closed. The contemporary SAR remains relatively high as a result of multiple drivers but is serving to enhance burial of contaminants, including mercury, as part of an ongoing rehabilitation program. A high level of consistency (within 30%) between the contemporary SAR and an annual estimate of DFSPM was documented. The utility of the model was demonstrated through applications that depict the amount of deposits contributed by the industry, the effect of compaction on burial velocity, the dilution effect of the high SAR values on the paleolimnological record, and the resolution of sediment diagenesis kinetics.

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© International Society of Limnology 2012. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.5268/IW-2.1.454

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Inland Waters