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Assessing aquatic macrophyte community change through\ud the integration of palaeolimnological and historical data\ud at Loch Leven, Scotland

By Jorge Salgado, Carl Sayer, Laurence Carvalho, Thomas Davidson and Iain Gunn


Submerged macrophytes have a critical role in lake ecosystems affecting nutrient cycling, sediment stability, and community composition across multiple trophic levels. Consequently temporal changes in the composition of submerged plant populations can have profound ecological implications and key significance from the perspective of lake conservation. By focusing on macro-remains of aquatic macrophytes and extensive historical plant records spanning the last approximately 180 years, this study seeks to evaluate a combined historical-palaeolimnological approach for establishing pre-disturbance macrophytes communities in Loch Leven, Kinross, Scotland and to provide new information regarding temporal trends in its macrophyte vegetation as well as potential drivers of change. Some 81% of the species historically recorded for the core site (east side of St. Serf’s Island) were found as macro-remains. Potamogeton taxa were underrepresented, whereas remains of Elatine hexandra, a small species never recorded historically were found. The core sequence showed good agreement with known floristic changes including an early (pre- ca. 1850) loss of Isoetes lacustris and Lobelia dortmanna and a more recent (post-1910) shift to dominance by Potamogeton and Chara taxa associated with eutrophic conditions. A clear pattern in the relationship between macrofossil principal component analysis (PCA) and loss on ignition suggested a key control of sediment conditions on macrophyte community structure. In particular the major macrophyte community change of the mid-nineteenth century was concurrent with a substantial increase in organic matter, likely linked to a historic lake lowering (early 1830s) which would have beached the former gravel-sand shoreline leading to a much siltier lake littoral. Although recent monitoring data show signs of ecological recovery our study illustrates that Loch Leven remains a long way from its reference state as a lake with characteristic soft-water macrophytes. To achieve a full recovery, sediment properties would need to change in addition to nutrient reduction. Consequently restoration strategies will need to compromise between the desirability of achieving the pre-disturbance state and what is feasible and practicable. Our study shows the clear potential role of a combined palaeolimnological-historical approach for informing lake management decisions

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s10933-009-9389-5
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