Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 381–398 | Cite as

A high-resolution pigment and productivity record from the varved Ponte Tresa basin (Lake Lugano, Switzerland) since 1919: insight from an approach that combines hyperspectral imaging and high-performance liquid chromatography

  • Tobias Schneider
  • Denise Rimer
  • Christoph Butz
  • Martin Grosjean
Original paper


Eutrophication, prompted by anthropogenic activities and climate change has led to multiple adverse effects in freshwater systems across the world. As instrumental measurements are typically short, lake sediment proxies of aquatic primary productivity (PP) are often used to extend the observational record of eutrophication back in time. Sedimentary pigments provide specific information on PP and major algal communities, but the records are often limited in the temporal resolution. Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) data, in contrast, provide very high seasonal (sub-varve-scale) resolution, but the pigment speciation is limited. Here, we explore a combined approach on varved sediments from the Ponte Tresa basin, southern Switzerland, taking the advantages of both methods (HSI and high performance liquid chromatography, HPLC) with the goal to reconstruct the recent eutrophication history at seasonal to interannual resolution. We propose a modified scheme for the calibration of HSI data (here: Relative Absorption Band Depth between 590 and 730 nm RABD590–730) and HPLC-inferred pigment concentrations (here: ‘green pigments’ {chlorophyll a and pheophytin a}) and present a calibration model (R2 = 0.82; RMSEP ~ 12%). The calibration range covers > 98% of the spectral index values of all individual pixels (68 µm × 68 µm) in the sediment core. This allows us to identify and quantify extreme pigment concentrations related to individual major algal blooms, to identify multiple algal blooms within one season, and to assess interannual variability of PP. Prior to the 1930s, ‘green pigment’ concentrations and fluxes (~ 50 µg g−1; ~ 2 µg cm−2a−1, chlorophyll a and pheophytin a) and interannual variability was very low. From the 1930s to 1964, chlorophyll a and pheophytin a increased by a factor of ~ 4, and ββ-carotene appeared in substantial amounts (~ 0.4 µg cm−2a−1). Interannual variability increased markedly and a first strong algal bloom with ‘green pigment’ concentrations as high as 700 µg g−1 is observed in 1958. Peak eutrophication (~ 12 µg cm−2a−1 chlorophyll a and pheophytin a) and very high interannual variability with extreme algal blooms (‘green pigment’ concentrations up to 1400 µg g−1) is observed until ca. 1990, when eutrophication decreases slightly. Maximum PP values after 2009 are likely the result of internal nutrient cycling related to repeated deep mixing of the lake.


Eutrophication Global change Paleolimnology Freshwater systems Anthropocene Alps 



The project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant 200021_152986. MG designed the research. DR, CB and TS did all the sedimentological and statistical analyses. TS and MG wrote the paper, all authors commented on the drafts. We thank Dr. Daniela Fischer for the lab assistance and Carole Adolf (Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern) for the support in the field and the varve counting.

Supplementary material

10933_2018_28_MOESM1_ESM.docx (899 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 899 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Geography, University of BernBernSwitzerland

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