Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 191-202

First online:

Late Holocene changes in ultraviolet radiation penetration recorded in an East Antarctic lake

  • Elie VerleyenAffiliated withLaboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University Email author 
  • , Dominic A. HodgsonAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council
  • , Koen SabbeAffiliated withLaboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University
  • , Wim VyvermanAffiliated withLaboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University

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Late Holocene changes in the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) penetration in a lake in the Larsemann Hills (East Antarctica) were reconstructed using sediment core proxies based on fossil pigments (scytonemins and its derivatives) and siliceous microfossils. The influence of changes in lake depth on the UVR proxy was excluded by applying a correction, based on the non-linear relation between modern scytonemin concentrations and lake depth in a regional reference data set, and the record of past lake depths inferred using a diatom based transfer function in the sediment core. Results showed four well-defined maxima in the UVR proxy during the last 1600–1800 years, centred around 1820–1780, 1580–1490, 790–580 and 680–440 AD. Several mechanisms may account for these observed changes in UVR penetration, including past variability in cloud cover, atmospheric turbidity, ozone column depth, snow cover on the lake ice, DOM concentrations and lake-ice thickness and transparency resulting from temperature fluctuations. Although some gaps remain in our knowledge of scytonemin production in relation to the limnology of Antarctic lakes, the results highlight the importance and potential of the sediments in these highly transparent water bodies as archives of changes in past UVR receipt at the Earth’s surface.


Antarctica Diatoms Larsemann Hills Pigments Scytonemin Ultraviolet radiation