, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 117-127
Date: 27 Sep 2012

Influence of sample location and livestock numbers on Sporormiella concentrations and accumulation rates in surface sediments of Lake Allos, French Alps

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Spores of coprophilous fungi, especially Sporormiella, are often well preserved in lake sediment cores. It has been hypothesized that such spores can be used to quantify past livestock abundance. The quantitative relationship between fungal spore abundance and livestock populations, however, is not well established, nor are the mechanisms of spore transport and deposition in lacustrine systems. Multiple cores from Lake Allos, a large high-elevation lake in the French Alps, were used to map the modern abundance of Sordaria and Sporormiella spores throughout the lake. We observed high spatial heterogeneity with respect to spore numbers. No correlation with the distance from shoreline was found. There was, however, a relation with distance from the two main lake inlets. These results were used to select two fungi-rich sediment cores to investigate grazing pressure over the last two centuries. Comparisons were made between spore influx and historic data on livestock densities in the catchment. A sharp decrease in Sporormiella influx ca. 1894–1895 was associated with a reported reduction in sheep in the Allos catchment at that time. Mean influx of Sporormiella decreased by a factor of three between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, reflecting a reduction in the reported number of animals in the Lake Allos catchment, from 6,000 to 2,000. This study confirmed that Sporormiella spore abundance in lake sediments can be used as a proxy for catchment herbivore numbers in paleoecological reconstructions. Nevertheless, our data indicate that before spore accumulation can be used to infer past domestic herbivore density, one must understand the processes of coprophilous spore transfer from the catchment to the lake and the influence of core location on spore numbers in the sediment.