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Contrasting effects of nutrients and climate on algal communities in two lakes in the Windermere catchment since the late 19th century

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Freshwater Biology
Issue number12
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)2605-2620
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date29/09/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English



1.Disentangling the role of nutrient pollution and climate change on lake ecosystem functioning is paramount to protect water quality in lake catchments worldwide. For more effective management, however, we need to determine whether these two forcing factors interact at different spatial and temporal scales.

2.This study compares centennial-scale archival data and lake sediment records of eutrophication from Blelham Tarn and previously published data from Lake Windermere's North Basin in the English Lake District. We aimed to quantify how lake morphometry, catchment characteristics and landscape position influence the relationship between climate, local land use and algal community change.

3.Redundancy analysis revealed that increases in cyanobacterial pigments and stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon in sediments of Blelham Tarn from the 1970s onwards correlate strongly with rising densities of sheep and cattle in the catchment. Concomitant installation of piped water and sewage processing facilities appeared to lead to the expansion of filamentous cyanobacteria. In contrast, elevated fossil pigments from siliceous algae after 1990 were related inversely to winter precipitation, suggesting seasonal changes in hydraulic flushing also influenced the algal community response to centennial-scale fertilisation.

4.Abundance of vernal algae increased synchronously in Blelham Tarn and Lake Windermere's North Basin after regional agricultural intensification in the mid-nineteenth century. In contrast, differences in timing of wastewater disposal and treatment at each site led to asynchronous changes in summer taxa such as filamentous cyanobacteria.

5.This study highlights that lake catchments can act as local filters to regional climate change, both due to differences in localised land-use and intrinsic hydrological features (e.g. catchment:lake area, flushing rate). Further, this paper highlights the ability of palaeolimnology to aid identification of significant nutrient sources over different spatial scales for effective catchment water management.