Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 669–691 | Cite as

Are fossil assemblages in a single sediment core from a small lake representative of total deposition of mite, chironomid, and plant macrofossil remains?

  • Marianne Presthus Heggen
  • Hilary H. Birks
  • Oliver Heiri
  • John-Arvid Grytnes
  • H. John B. Birks
Original paper


How representative of the whole-lake fossil assemblage are analyses from a single sediment core taken in the centre of a small lake? This question was addressed in five shallow Norwegian lakes that ranged in location from low-altitude, boreal-deciduous forest to mid-alpine environments. Surface-sediment samples were taken from the deepest part of each lake and in two transects running from the lake centre to shore, and analysed for mites, chironomids, and plant remains. Ordination techniques summarised patterns of variation between and within lakes. Correlations between whole-lake assemblages and water depth and sediment organic content (loss-on-ignition) were investigated. Representativeness of each sample of the whole-lake assemblage was determined by comparing Principal Components Analysis scores of the original data with those of Monte Carlo-simulated data sets, using the actual data as constraints in the simulations. The majority of samples are representative of the whole-lake assemblages. Littoral samples, however, are most frequently unrepresentative or poorly representative samples. Water depth is an important controlling variable. A sediment core from the lake centre has the highest probability of representing the whole-lake assemblage. It may, however, also yield the lowest concentrations of terrestrial remains. A sediment core from the slope is slightly more likely to be unrepresentative of the total plant macrofossil assemblage, but generally has higher concentrations of terrestrial remains. These site differences should be considered when choosing a core location. Overall, the three fossil types are deposited in similar patterns. Therefore they can be satisfactorily analysed using a single core.


Within-lake deposition patterns Representativeness Oribatid mites Chironomids Plant macrofossils Modern sediment samples Monte Carlo simulations 



Jan Berge, Aina Dahlø, Lapager Duorje, Jorunn Larsen, Endre Willassen, and Gaute Velle assisted with fieldwork. Mareile Andersson and Wenche Eide extracted the mites and plant macrofossils from the sediments, and assisted in the identification of the plant macrofossils. Arguitxu de la Riva Caballero, Torstein Solhøy, Ingelinn Aarnes, and Knut Helge Jensen provided valuable input regarding the analyses and interpretations. Oliver Heiri was financed by a Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship for prospective researchers (Fellowship 81BE-66224) and Marianne Presthus Heggen was financed by NORPEC, a NFR-funded Strategic University Program at the University of Bergen, co-ordinated by HJB Birks. NORPEC also financed the fieldwork.

Supplementary material

10933_2012_9637_MOESM1_ESM.doc (218 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 218 kb)


  1. Behan-Pelletier VM (1985) Ceratozetidae of the western North American Arctic. Can Ent 117:1287–1366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Behan-Pelletier VM (1989) Limnozetes (Acari: Limnozetidae) of northeastern North America. Can Ent 121:453–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birks HH (1973) Modern macrofossil assemblages in lake sediments in Minnesota. In: Birks HJB, West RG (eds) Quaternary plant ecology. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp 172–188Google Scholar
  4. Birks HH (1980) Plant macrofossils in Quaternary lake sediments. Arch Hydrobiol 15:1–60Google Scholar
  5. Birks HH (1991) Holocene vegetational history and climatic change in west Spitsbergen—plant macrofossils from Skardtjørna. Holocene 1:209–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Birks HH (2001) Plant macrofossils. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Terrestrial algal and siliceous indicators. Tracking environmental change using lake sediments, vol 3. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 49–74Google Scholar
  7. Birks HH (2007) Plant macrofossil introduction. In: Elias SA (ed) Encyclopedia of quaternary science. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 2266–2288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Birks HJB, Birks HH (1980) Quaternary palaeoecology. Edward Arnold, London, p 289Google Scholar
  9. Birks HH, Birks HJB (2000) Future uses of pollen analysis must include plant macrofossils. J Biogeogr 27:31–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Birks HH, Birks HJB (2006) Multi-proxy studies in palaeolimnology. Veg Hist Archaeobot 15:235–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Birks HJB, Line JM, Juggins S, Stevenson AC, ter Braak CJF (1990) Diatoms and pH reconstruction. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 327:263–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bjune AE (2005) Holocene vegetation history and tree-line changes on a north–south transect crossing major climate gradients in southern Norway—evidence from pollen and plant macrofossils in lake sediments. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 133:249–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blais JM, Kalff J (1995) The influence of lake morphometry on sediment focusing. Limnol Oceanogr 40:582–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Borcard D, Legendre P, Drapeau P (1992) Partialling out the spatial component of ecological variation. Ecology 73:1045–1055CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bretschko G (1974) The chironomid fauna of a high-mountain lake (Vorderer Finstertaler See, Tyrol, Austria, 2237 m asl). Ent Tidskr Suppl 95:22–33Google Scholar
  16. Brinkhurst RO (ed) (1974) The benthos of lakes. MacMillan Press Ltd, London, p 190Google Scholar
  17. Brundin L (1949) Chironomiden und andere Bodentiere der südschwedischen Urgebirgsseen. Inst Freshw Res Drottningholm Rep 30:1–914Google Scholar
  18. Davidson TA, Sayer CD, Bennion H, David C, Rose N, Wade MP (2005) A 250 year comparison of historical, macrofossil and pollen records of aquatic plants in a shallow lake. Freshw Biol 50:1671–1686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Davis MB, Brubaker LB (1973) Differential sedimentation of pollen grains in lakes. Limnol Oceanogr 18:635–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Davis MB, Ford MS (1982) Sediment focusing in Mirror Lake, New Hampshire. Limnol Oceanogr 27:137–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Davis MB, Brubaker LB, Webb T (1973) Calibration of absolute pollen influx. In: Birks HJB, West RG (eds) Quaternary plant ecology. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp 9–25Google Scholar
  22. de la Riva-Caballero A, Birks HJB, Bjune AE, Birks HH, Solhøy T (2010) Oribatid mite assemblages across the tree-line in western Norway and their representation in lake sediments. J Paleolimnol. doi: 10.1007/s10933-010-9411-y Google Scholar
  23. Dieffenbacher-Krall AC (2007) Surface samples, taphonomy, representation. In: Elias SA (ed) Encyclopedia of quaternary science. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 2367–2374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dieffenbacher-Krall AC, Halteman W (2000) The relationship of modern plant remains to water depth in alkaline lakes in New England, USA. J Paleolimnol 24:213–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eide W, Birks HH, Bigelow NH, Peglar SM, Birks HJB (2006) Holocene forest development along the Setesdal valley, southern Norway, reconstructed from macrofossil and pollen evidence. Veg Hist Archaeobot 15:65–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Erickson JM (1988) Fossil oribatid mites as tools for Quaternary paleoecologists: preservation quality, quantities, taphonomy. In Laub RS, Miller NG, and Steadman DW (eds) Late pleistocene and early holocene paleoecology and archeology of the eastern Great Lakes Region. 33. The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, pp 207–226Google Scholar
  27. Erickson JM, Platt RB (2007) Oribatid mites. In: Elias SA (ed) Encyclopedia of quaternary science. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 1547–1566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Evans RD (1994) Empirical evidence of the importance of sediment resuspension in lakes. Hydrobiologia 284:5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gerstmeier R (1989) Lake typology and indicator organisms in application to the profundal chironomid fauna of Starnberger See (Diptera, Chironomidae). Arch Hydrobiol 116:227–234Google Scholar
  30. Gilyarov MS (1975) A key to the soil-inhabiting mites. Sarcoptiformes. (Translated from Russian). Nauka, Moscow, USSR, pp 740Google Scholar
  31. Glaser PH (1981) Transport and deposition of leaves and seeds on tundra: a late-glacial analog. Arct Alp Res 13:173–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Grimm EC (1993) Tilia 2.0.b.4. Illinois State Museum. Research and Collections CenterGoogle Scholar
  33. Grimm EC (2004) TGView 2.0.2. Illinois State Museum. Research and Collections CenterGoogle Scholar
  34. Heiri O (2004) Within-lake variability of sub-fossil chironomid assemblages in shallow Norwegian lakes. J Paleolimnol 32:67–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Heiri O (2007) Postglacial Europe. In: Elias SA (ed) Encyclopedia of quaternary science. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 390–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Heiri O, Lotter AF, Lemcke G (2001) Loss on ignition as a method for estimating organic and carbonate content in sediments: reproducibility and comparability of results. J Paleolimnol 25:101–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heiri O, Birks HJB, Brooks SJ, Velle G, Willassen E (2003) Effects of within-lake variability of fossil assemblages on quantitative chironomid-inferred temperature reconstruction. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 199:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jonsgard B, Birks HH (1995) Late-glacial mosses and environmental reconstructions at Kråkenes, western Norway. Lindbergia 20:64–82Google Scholar
  39. Lid J, Lid DT (1994) Norsk flora. Det Norske Samlaget, Oslo, p 1014Google Scholar
  40. Lotter AF (2003) Multi-proxy climatic reconstructions. In: Mackay A, Battarbee RW, Birks HJB, Oldfield F (eds) Global change in the holocene. Arnold, London, pp 373–383Google Scholar
  41. Moen A (1999) National atlas of Norway: vegetation. Norwegian Mapping Authority, Hønefoss, p 200Google Scholar
  42. Porinchu DF, MacDonald GM (2003) The use and application of freshwater midges (Chironomidae: Insecta: Diptera) in geographical research. Prog Phys Geog 27:378–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Renberg I (1991) The HON-Kajak sediment corer. J Paleolimnol 6:167–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schmäh A (1993) Variation among fossil chironomid assemblages in surficial sediments of Bodensee-Untersee (SW-Germany): implications for paleolimnological interpretation. J Paleolimnol 9:99–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Solhøy T (2001) Oribatid mites. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments. 4: Zoological indicators. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 81–104Google Scholar
  46. Spicer RA, Wolfe JA (1987) Plant taphonomy of Late Holocene deposits in Trinity (Clair Engel) Lake, Northern California. Paleobiology 13:227–245Google Scholar
  47. R development Core Team (2008) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for statistical computingGoogle Scholar
  48. ter Braak CJF, Prentice IC (1988) A theory of gradient analysis. Adv Ecol Res 18:271–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. ter Braak CJF, Šmilauer P (2002) CANOCO reference manual and CanoDraw for Windows user’s guide: software for canonical community ordination (version 4.5). Microcomputer Power, Ithaca, New York, p 500Google Scholar
  50. van Hardenbroek M, Heiri O, Wilhelms MF, Lotter AF (2011) How representative are subfossil assemblages of Chironomidae and common benthic invertebrates for the living fauna of Lake De Waay, the Netherlands? Aquat Sci 73:247–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Velle G, Larsen J, Eide W, Peglar SM, Birks HJB (2005) Holocene environmental history and climate of Råtåsjøen, a low-alpine lake in south-central Norway. J Paleolimnol 33:129–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Walker IR (2007) Chironomid overview. In: Elias SA (ed) Encyclopedia of quaternary science. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 360–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Weigmann G (2006) Hornmilben (Oribatida). Goecke & Evers Keltern, Keltern, p 520Google Scholar
  54. Zhao Y, Sayer CD, Birks HH, Hughes M, Peglar SM (2006) Spatial representation of aquatic vegetation by macrofossils and pollen in a small and shallow lake. J Paleolimnol 35:335–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne Presthus Heggen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hilary H. Birks
    • 1
  • Oliver Heiri
    • 3
    • 4
  • John-Arvid Grytnes
    • 1
  • H. John B. Birks
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationBergen University CollegeBergenNorway
  3. 3.Laboratory of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Palaeoecology, Institute of Environmental BiologyUtrecht UniversityCD UtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Institute of Plant Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  5. 5.Environmental Change Research CentreUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations