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Convergent human and climate forcing of late-Holocene flooding in northwest EnglandConcern is growing that climate change may amplify global flood risk but short hydrological data series hamper hazard assessment. Lake sediment reconstructions are capturing a fuller picture of rare, high-magnitude events but the UK has produced few lake palaeoflood records. We report the longest lake-derived flood reconstruction for the UK to date, a 1500-year record from Brotherswater, northwest England. Its catchment is well-suited physiographically to palaeoflood research, but its homogeneous, dark brown sediment matrix precludes visual identification of flood layers. Instead, an outlier detection routine applied to high-resolution particle size measurements showed a >90% match, in stratigraphic sequence, to measured high river flows. Our late-Holocene palaeoflood reconstruction reveals nine multi-decadal periods of more frequent flooding (CE 510-630, 890-960, 990-1080, 1470-1560, 1590-1620, 1650-1710, 1740-1770, 1830-1890 and 1920-2012), and these show a significant association with negative winter North Atlantic Oscillation (wNAO) phasing and some synchrony with solar minima. These flood-rich episodes also overlap with local and regional land-use intensification, which we propose has amplified the flood signal by creating a more efficient catchment sediment conveyor and more rapid hillslope-channel hydrological connectivity. Disentangling anthropogenic and climatic drivers is a challenge but anthropogenic landscape transformation should evidently not be underestimated in palaeoflood reconstructions. Our paper also demonstrates that flood histories can be extracted from the numerous lakes worldwide containing organic-rich, visually homogeneous sediments. This transformative evidence base should lead to more reliable assessments of flood frequency and risks to ecosystems and infrastructure.
Quantifying system disturbance and recovery from historical mining-derived metal contamination at Brotherswater, northwest EnglandMetal ore extraction in historical times has left a legacy of severe contamination in aquatic ecosystems around the world. In the UK, there are ongoing nationwide surveys of present-day pollution discharged from abandoned mines but few assessments of the magnitude of contamination and impacts that arose during historical metal mining have been made. We report one of the first multi-centennial records of lead (Pb), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) fluxes into a lake (Brotherswater, northwest England) from point-sources in its catchment (Hartsop Hall Mine and Hogget Gill processing plant) and calculate basin-scale inventories of those metals. The pre-mining baseline for metal contamination has been established using sediment cores spanning the past 1,500 years and contemporary material obtained through sediment trapping. These data enabled the impact of 250 years of local, small-scale mining (1696 – 1942) to be quantified and an assessment of the trajectory towards system recovery to be made. The geochemical stratigraphy displayed in twelve sediment cores show strong correspondence to the documented history of metal mining and processing in the catchment. The initial onset in 1696 was detected, peak Pb concentrations (>10,000 µg g-1) and flux (39.4 g m-2 y-1) corresponded to the most intensive mining episode (1863-1871) and 20th century technological enhancements were reflected as a more muted sedimentary imprint. After careful evaluation, we used these markers to augment a Bayesian age-depth model of the independent geochronology obtained using radioisotope dating (14C, 210Pb, 137Cs and 241Am). Total inventories of Pb, Zn and Cu for the lake basin during the period of active mining were 15,415 kg, 5,897 kg and 363 kg, respectively. The post-mining trajectories for Pb and Zn project a return to pre-mining levels within 54-128 years for Pb and 75-187 years for Zn, although future remobilisation of metal-enriched catchment soils and floodplain sediments could perturb this recovery. We present a transferable paleolimnological approach that highlights flux-based assessments are vital to accurately establish the baseline, impact and trajectory of mining-derived contamination for a lake catchment.