US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Paleolimnology 17: 227–237, 1997.


White Rock Lake reservoir in Dallas, Texas contains a 150-cm sediment record of silty clay that documents land-use changes since its construction in 1912. Pollen analysis corroborates historical evidence that between 1912 and 1950 the watershed was primarily agricultural. Land disturbance by plowing coupled with strong and variable spring precipitation caused large amounts of sediment to enter the lake during this period. Diatoms were not preserved at this time probably because of low productivity compared to diatom dissolution by warm, alkaline water prior to burial in the sediments. After 1956, the watershed became progressively urbanized. Erosion decreased, land stabilized, and pollen of riparian trees increased as the lake water became somewhat less turbid. By 1986 the sediment record indicates that diatom productivity had increased beyond rates of diatom destruction. Neither increased nutrients nor reduced pesticides can account for increased diatom productivity, but grain size studies imply that before 1986 diatoms were light limited by high levels of turbidity. This study documents how reservoirs may relate to land-use practices and how watershed management could extend reservoir life and improve water quality.