Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 329–347 | Cite as

Natural and anthropogenic forcing of Holocene lake ecosystem development at Lake Uddelermeer (The Netherlands)

  • Stefan Engels
  • Rogier van Oostrom
  • Chiara Cherli
  • Jennifer A. J. Dungait
  • Boris Jansen
  • J. M. van Aken
  • Bas van Geel
  • Petra M. Visser
Original paper


Lake Uddelermeer (The Netherlands) is characterized by turbid conditions and annual blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, which are supposed to be the result of increased agricultural activity in the twentieth century AD. We applied a combination of classic palaeoecological proxies and novel geochemical proxies to the Holocene sediment record of Lake Uddelermeer (The Netherlands) in order to reconstruct the natural variability of the lake ecosystem and to identify the drivers of the change to the turbid conditions that currently characterize this lake. We show that the lake ecosystem was characterized by a mix of aquatic macrophytes and abundant phytoplankton between 11,500 and 6000 cal year BP. A transition to a lake ecosystem with clear-water conditions and relatively high abundances of ‘isoetids’ coincides with the first signs of human impact on the landscape around Lake Uddelermeer during the Early Neolithic (ca. 6000 cal year BP). An abrupt and dramatic ecosystem shift can be seen at ca. 1030 cal year BP when increases in the abundance of algal microfossils and concentrations of sedimentary pigments indicate a transition to a turbid phytoplankton-dominated state. Finally, a strong increase in concentrations of plant and faecal biomarkers is observed around 1950 AD. Canonical Correspondence Analysis suggests that reconstructed lake ecosystem changes are best explained by environmental drivers that show long-term gradual changes (sediment age, water depth). These combined results document the long-term anthropogenic impact on the ecosystem of Lake Uddelermeer and provide evidence for pre-Industrial Era signs of eutrophication.


Palaeoecology Pollution history Ecosystem change Faecal biomarkers Sedimentary pigments Holocene 



Tieke Poelen and Kroondomein het Loo are thanked for granting permission to access the site. We thank Nelleke van Asch, Erik J de Boer, Remko Engels, Wim Z Hoek, Andy F Lotter, Julia Sassi and Hessel Woolderink for help during fieldwork; Annemarie Philip for preparing pollen samples; Leo Hoitinga, Joke Westerveld and Pieter Slot for laboratory assistance; Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Johannes van der Plicht and Christine S Lane for help with the chronological work. The research of SE is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, Project 863.11.009). The contribution of JAJD represents part of the BBSRC funded programmes at Rothamsted Research on Sustainable Soil Function, and Bioenergy and Climate Change. We thank the reviewers and editors for their helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. In loving memory of Sjoerd Bohncke, our friend and colleague who is dearly missed.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecosystem and Landscape Dynamics, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.School of GeographyBirkbeck University of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Sustainable Soils and Grassland SystemsRothamsted ResearchOkehamptonUK
  4. 4.Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of GeosciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Freshwater and Marine Ecology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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