Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 399–404 | Cite as

Palaeolimnology and its developing role in assessing the history and extent of human impact on lake ecosystems

  • Richard W. Battarbee
  • Helen Bennion
Original paper


This Special Issue was produced as an output from the EU Integrated Project Euro-limpacs which aimed to evaluate the impacts of global change on European freshwater ecosystems using a combination of approaches, including monitoring, experiments, modelling and palaeolimnology. The papers focus on the last of these approaches. They examine the role of lake sediment records in determining reference conditions for a range of environmental pressures including acidification, eutrophication, metal pollution, organic carbon and sediment accumulation rates. The findings are especially relevant to the European Union’s Water Framework Directive which requires an assessment of lake ecological status based on deviation from reference conditions. The contributions consider a range of issues relating to the use of palaeolimnological data in defining reference conditions and lake status including human versus natural variability, concepts of pristine and reference conditions, shifting baselines, and quantification of degree of change. This introductory paper sets the context for the volume by briefly describing how palaeolimnology has evolved as a science, able now to contribute uniquely to the understanding of lake ecosystem change, especially with respect to the role of human activity over recent decades and centuries.


Palaeolimnology Reference conditions Restoration targets Eutrophication Acidification Water Framework Directive 



We would like to thank John Birks and John Smol for their comments on the manuscript and Katy Wilson for help with technical editing. The papers in this special issue are based on research funded by the EU Integrated Project Euro-limpacs (GOCE-CT-2003-505540).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Change Research CentreUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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