Paleolimnological techniques were utilized to determine whether diatom and scaled chrysophyte assemblages in Daisy, Swan, and Tilton lakes (Sudbury, Ontario) have recovered toward their preimpact conditions as a result of reduced inputs of anthropogenic pollutants (SO 42- and metals) or whether other environmental stressors have affected recovery trajectories. In addition, geochemical analysis was used to track trends in sedimentary nickel and copper concentrations through time. Preindustrial algal assemblages were primarily dominated by circumneutral to alkaline and pH-indifferent taxa. However, with the onset of open-pit roasting and smelting operations, there was a stratigraphic shift toward acid-tolerant species. With wide-scale smelter emission reductions commencing in the 1970s, scaled chrysophyte assemblages in Swan and Daisy lakes have started to show signs of biological recovery in ∼ 1984 and ∼ 1991, respectively. Although the scaled chrysophyte assemblage in Tilton Lake has not recovered toward the predisturbance assemblage, the decline in acidophilic taxa and increase in circumneutral taxa in recently deposited lake sediments indicate that the community is responding to increased lake water pH. Conversely, diatom assemblages within each of the study lakes have not begun to recover, despite well-documented chemical recovery. It is suspected that biological recovery in Sudbury area lakes may be impeded by other environmental stressors such as climate warming. Copper and nickel concentrations in lake sediments increased with the onset of mining activities and subsequently declined with emission controls. However, metal concentrations in lake sediments remain elevated compared to preindustrial concentrations. Together, biological and geochemical evidence demonstrates the clear environmental benefits associated with smelter emission controls. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.