Lake sediments serve as archives that reflect biological and chemical conditions of lakes. Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus are determined in sediments and in suspended material in lakes, termed seston, for a number of purposes. These include: assessment of sediment quality, identification of the trophic level of lakes, and study of contaminants. The use of near-infrared spectroscopy provides a rapid and cost-effective alternative for routine analysis of large numbers of samples. Calibration equations developed from spectral data and the results of conventional chemical analysis on an initial set of representative samples are used to predict constituents in future unknown samples of the same type. In sediment samples and seston, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus were generally predicted very successfully by near-infrared spectroscopy. The best samples for analyzing sediment quality are generally those from the deepest part of a lake. Spatial variability in sediment quality of a lake was successfully explored by this method, suggesting that near-infrared spectroscopy is a potential complementary tool to standard methods for analyzing and characterizing sediments.

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