• varves;
  • image analysis;
  • climate change;
  • snow melt;
  • temperature;
  • minerogenic matter accumulation rate;
  • sediment supply;
  • stream erosion


Processes controlling sediment yield vary over a range of timescales, although most process-based observations are extremely short. Lake sediments, however, can be used to extend the observational timescale and are particularly useful when annually laminated (varved) sediment is present. The sediment record at Kassjön (N. Sweden) consists of ∼6400 varves, each 0·5–1 mm thick. Image analysis was used to determine grey-scale variation and varve thickness from which annual minerogenic accumulation rate (MinAR) (mg cm−2 year−1) was inferred for the period 4486 BC – AD 1900. MinAR varies on annual to centennial scales and mainly reflects channel bank erosion by the inflow streams. The mineral input reflects the intensity of the spring run-off, which is dependent on the amount of snow accumulated during the winter, and hence MinAR is a long-term record of variability in past winter climate; other factors will be a variable response to catchment uplift, vegetation succession and pedogenesis. A major shift from low to high MinAR occurred ∼250 BC, and peaks occurred around AD 250, 600, 1000, 1350 and 1650. Wavelet power spectrum analysis (confirmed by Fourier analyses) indicated significantly different periodicities throughout the period 4000 BC – AD 1700, including 275 years for the period 4000 BC – 2900 BC, 567 years for the period 2901 BC – 1201 BC, and 350 and 725 years for the period 1200 BC – AD 1700. The long-term, centennial scale variability (∼350 years) may reflect solar forcing (cf the 385-year peak in tree-ring calibrated 14C activity) but interestingly, there is no obvious link to high frequency forcing, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation. The high resolution component of the record highlights the relevance of varved lake sediment records for understanding erosion dynamics in undisturbed forested catchments and their link to long-term climate dynamics and future climate change. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.