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Publication Detail
A 250 year comparison of historical, macrofossil and pollen records of aquatic plants in a shallow lake
1. Sedimentary remains of aquatic plants, both vegetative (turions, leaves, spines) and reproductive (fruits, seeds, pollen), may provide a record of temporal changes in the submerged vegetation of lakes. An independent assessment of the degree to which these remains reflect past floristic change is, however, rarely possible. 2. By exploiting an extensive series of historical plant records for a small lake we compare plant macrofossil (three cores) and pollen (one core) profiles with the documented sequence of submerged vegetation change since circa 1750 AD. The data set is based on 146 site visits with 658 observations including 42 taxa classified as aquatic, spanning 250 years 3. Approximately 40% of the historically recorded aquatic taxa were represented by macro-remains. In general macrofossils underestimated past species diversity, with pondweeds (3 of 8 historically recorded Potamogeton species were found) particularly poorly represented. Nonetheless, several taxa not reported from historical surveys (e.g. Myriophyllum alterniflorum and Characeae) were present in the sediment record. 4. The pollen record revealed taxa which left no macro-remains (e.g. Littorella uniflora), and the macrofossil record provided improved taxonomic resolution for some taxa (e.g. Potamogeton) and a more reliable record of persistence, appearance and loss of others (e.g. Myriophyllum spp. and Nymphaeaceae). 5. Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA) indicated that changes in the community composition evidenced by the palaeolimnological and historical records were synchronous and of a similar magnitude. Both records pointed to a major change at around 1800, with the historical record suggesting a more abrupt change than the sedimentary data. There was good agreement on a subsequent change c. 1930. 6. The palaeolimnological data did not provide a complete inventory of historically recorded species. Nevertheless, these results suggest that combined macrofossil and pollen records provide a reliable indication of temporal change in the dominant components of the submerged and floating-leaved aquatic vegetation of shallow lakes. As such palaeolimnology may provide a useful tool for establishing community dynamics and successions of plants over decadal to centennial timescales.
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