, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 87-97
Date: 04 Dec 2013

Ecological responses to climate change in a bird-impacted High Arctic pond (Nordaustlandet, Svalbard)

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A 28-cm sediment core from an Arctic pond (Nordaustlandet, Svalbard), which is currently subjected to the fertilizing effect of bird guano, was analysed for fossil invertebrates and the physical properties of the sediment. The objective was to examine aquatic community responses to climate warming. Our record reveals that faunal changes have occurred. Initially chironomid assemblages were dominated by a cold-indicating oligotrophic community but this was replaced by a community typical of more nutrient-enriched conditions and warmer water temperature at around AD 1,700–1,800. After AD 1,800, ostracods and Daphnia increase suggesting that a nutrient enrichment threshold was crossed, probably related to increased planktonic algal productivity. In the early twentieth century, organic content markedly increases and magnetic susceptibility values suddenly drop, indicating a further increase in nutrient input and lake productivity. Since the most likely source of nutrients in the lake is goose guano, this suggests that the size of the bird colony may also have increased over this period. These changes coincide with climate warming suggesting a positive feedback in which climate change is the primary driver of the increasing geese abundance and lake productivity. Our results further suggest that the predicted future warming in the Arctic will continue to have cascading effects on freshwater ecosystems in the region.