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Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 411–430 | Cite as

Diatom taphonomy and silica cycling in two freshwater lakes and their implications for inferring past lake productivity

  • David B. Ryves
  • N. John  Anderson
  • Roger J. Flower
  • Brian Rippey
Original paper

Abstract

Diatom preservation can be a major taphonomic issue in many lakes but is often unrecognised and its impacts on qualitative and quantitative inferences (such as productivity and biodiversity estimates) from sedimentary archives are seldom explored. Here two palaeolimnological case studies of 20th-century anthropogenic eutrophication of freshwater lakes in Northern Ireland (Lough Neagh and Lough Augher) are re-visited and new data presented on diatom preservation. Assessing problems of taphonomy challenges previous interpretations of silica dynamics and diatom productivity at these sites. Diatom preservation was assessed in both sediment trap material and sediment cores from Lough Neagh, and in sediment cores from Lough Augher. Preservation data, combined with geochemical analysis (Si, Fe), provide an insight into silica cycling and diatom accumulation over a range of temporal scales from these lakes. Diatom preservation was generally good for the Lough Neagh material, although differential (better) preservation of the smaller Aulacoseira subarctica compared to the larger Stephanodiscus neoastraea sensu lato valves was clear, especially in sediments. Porewater silica showed a complex seasonal pattern in the upper sediment, against expectations of steady-state. The Lough Augher material was generally poorly preserved, although preservation (dissolution) was significantly (and positively) correlated to bulk sedimentation rate, and was found to be a major control on (net) diatom accumulation rate across the basin. Past seasonal and severe anoxia at Lough Augher did not improve diatom preservation, contrary to some previous studies, which may be due to extreme changes in sedimentary redox conditions. Finally, using published experimental relationships between dissolution and diatom valve loss, correction factors were applied to previously published profiles of diatom accumulation over the last ~150 years (biovolume from Lough Neagh and frustule accumulation rate from Lough Augher), which suggest that diatom productivity estimates from sedimentary records are underestimated by a factor of 2–4 due to dissolution effects alone. The results clearly have implications for the reliability and accuracy of diatom-based inferences made from sediment records, both qualitative and quantitative, especially for those that employ diatoms as direct measures of productivity or biodiversity.

Keywords

Lough Neagh Lough Augher Dissolution Breakage Porewater chemistry Sediment traps Stephanodiscus Aulacoseira 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Bob Foy for supplying data for Lough Neagh silica concentration for 1977-78 and 1983, and two anonymous reviewers for many improvements and useful comments to the manuscript. This paper is a contribution to the special edition of Journal of Paleolimnology on the occasion of Professor Rick Battarbee’s retirement. It is a pleasure for us to acknowledge enthusiastic discussion with RWB on diatom dissolution, silica cycling and spatial variability within lakes on many occasions, and his inspiration and encouragement to us as aquatic scientists over many years.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David B. Ryves
    • 1
  • N. John  Anderson
    • 1
  • Roger J. Flower
    • 2
  • Brian Rippey
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Hydrological and Ecosystem Science (CHES), Department of GeographyLoughborough UniversityLoughborough, LeicsUK
  2. 2.Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC), Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Environmental Sciences Research Institute, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of UlsterColeraine, Co. LondonderryNorthern Ireland, UK

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