Loughborough University
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The diatom ecology and palaeoecology of shallow lakes subject to eutrophication: three examples from the English midlands

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posted on 2018-11-29, 09:43 authored by Carl D. Sayer
Lowland England abounds with shallow lakes subject to different levels of eutrophication. In the absence of long-term water chemistry records, palaeolimnology provides an alternative means of assessing the onset and extent of the nutrient enrichment process at a site. The diatoms preserved in lake sediments are extremely sensitive indicators of both past nutrient levels and of eutrophication-related changes in macrophyte-phytoplankton interactions. However the success of diatom-based palaeoecology depends upon a sound knowledge of the taxonomy, environmental requirements, and taphonomy of contemporary diatom communities. This thesis has focused on aspects of the diatom ecology, taphonomy and palaeolecology of three, small (<22 ha.), shallow (<3 m), alkaline lakes of contrasting nutrient and macrophyte status in the English Midlands. These lakes, Tween and Clifton Ponds and Groby Pool, were monitored on a monthly basis (Jan-Oct) for key water chemistry parameters. At the same time samples were collected from the diatom plankton and periphyton and in turn compared with the diatom assemblages which accumulated in sediment traps and at the sediment surface. The small centric diatoms that were found in these lakes were initially difficult to identify using the light microscope (LM), and a scanning electron microscope (SEM) study of the 'problematic' forms revealed considerable ecophenotypic and life-cycle related morphological plasticity. However with careful LM analysis it was possible to confidently distinguish between the different species in the samples. The ecological studies revealed strong associations between the presence or absence of submerged macrophytes and the seasonality and relative competitiveness of planktonic and periphytic diatom species. The relationship between the present-day diatom communities and the diatoms found in the traps and surface sediments of the lakes was relatively good, although there were some problems related to the dissolution of delicate forms. The timing of surface sediment sampling was found to be a critical factor affecting the sedimentary representation of species associated with different periods of the year. The eutrophication histories of Tween Pond (approx. last 30 yrs) and Groby Pool (approx. last 250 yrs) were inferred by comparing the fossil diatom record with the available historical records of lake disturbance, changing catchment land-use and submerged plant communities. The available modern data were used to assist in this process and using a simple life-form based approach it was possible to reconstruct past changes in the relative competitiveness of phytoplankton and submerged plants in both lakes. In Tween Pond the diatom stratigraphy clearly traced the dramatic increase in nutrient loading and the loss of submerged plants from the lake following the diversion of the Erewash in 1972. Similarly, in Groby Pool it was possible to identify the much slower transition- from a mesotrophic, diverse plant dominated state to a eutrophic, tall plant dominated situation. The implications of this study are discussed in relation to modern numerical methods of reconstructing past nutrient loadings



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  • Geography and Environment


© Carl Derek Sayer

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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