, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 154-171
Date: 17 May 2006

Distribution of diatoms, chironomids and cladocera in surface sediments of thirty mountain lakes in south-eastern Switzerland

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Surface sediments from 30 mountain lakes in south-eastern Switzerland (Engadine, Grisons) were analysed for subfossil diatom, chironomid, and cladoceran assemblages. Ordination techniques were used to identify relevant physical and chemical environmental parameters that best explain the distribution of these biota in the studied lakes. Diatom assemblage composition showed a strong relationship with physical (e.g., lake depth, temperature, organic content of surface sediments) and chemical variables (e.g., lake-water pH, alkalinity, silica concentration). The greatest variance in chironomid and cladoceran assemblages is explained by dissolved organic carbon (DOC) content of lake water, temperature, and the organic content of surface sediments, all parameters which are highly correlated with lake elevation. Increasing lake depth is reflected in diatom and cladoceran assemblages by higher percentages of planktonic species, whereas chironomid assemblages in the deep Engadine lakes are characterised by a high proportion of lotic taxa. In contrast to similar studies in the Northern and Southern Alps, subfossil assemblages in the Engadine mountain lakes showed a strong relationship with DOC, which in these weakly buffered lakes is negatively correlated with altitude. According to our findings, chironomid and cladocera remains have a considerable potential as quantitative palaeotemperature indicators in the Engadine area. This potential is somewhat weaker for diatoms which seem to be more strongly influenced by water chemistry and lake bathymetry.