Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 247-258

First online:

Liming placed in a long-term perspective: a paleolimnological study of 12 lakes in the Swedish liming program

  • Matilda GuhrénAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University Email author 
  • , Christian BiglerAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University
  • , Ingemar RenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University

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Since the 1970s liming has been practised on a large scale in Sweden to mitigate acidification and several thousand lakes and streams are limed repeatedly. The Swedish monitoring program ISELAW (Integrated Studies of the Effects of Liming Acidified Waters) studies the long-term effects of liming. This paper summarizes the paleolimnological part of the program. Sediment cores from 12 lakes were analysed to study the development of the lakes from pre-industrial time until the present, and address questions about natural conditions and the effects of early human impact, acidification, and liming. Diatoms were used to reconstruct the pH history and to study shifts in species composition due to acidification and liming. Analyses of lead and spheroidal carbonaceous particles were applied for indirect dating and as indicators of the atmospheric deposition of pollutants associated with acid rain. Pollen analysis was performed in eight of the lakes to study the vegetation and agricultural history. The natural pH (prior to human disturbance) was between 5.3 and 6.5 in the eight lakes where the complete post-glacial sediment sequence was recovered. Pollen from anthropochores and apophytes indicated early agricultural land use in the vicinity of the lakes from 1000 to 2000 years ago, and pH increased with land use in six of these lakes. Five of the lakes have been acidified during recent decades, and in all 12 lakes some effects of liming were recorded in the diatom assemblage. The lakes show different responses to liming, including a return to a pre-acidification diatom composition or a shift to a state previously not recorded in the lake’s histories. This study accentuates the complexity of biological response to acidification and liming, and highlights the importance of historical perspectives to assess the current state of a lake’s ecosystem and to establish adequate restoration goals.


Acidification Liming Diatoms Water quality Paleolimnology Lake sediments