, Volume 275, Issue 1, pp 391–410 | Cite as

A diatom-phosphorus transfer function for shallow, eutrophic ponds in southeast England

  • Helen Bennion
Nutrient Dynamic, Internal Loading


Shallow ponds in southeast England are often eutrophic with high phosphorus concentrations. The aim of this study was to develop a diatom-phosphorus ‘transfer function’ to enable past phosphorus levels in such waters to be inferred from the sediment record. A water chemistry survey of 123 randomly chosen, shallow, artificial ponds in southeast England was carried out. Principal components analysis (PCA) revealed that phosphorus was an important environmental variable. A subset of 31 sites was selected along a total phosphorus (TP) gradient (winter TP range 7–1123 µg 1-1), in order to explore the relationship between the surface-sediment diatom assemblages and the contemporary water chemistry using canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Annual mean TP was the most significant variable in explaining the variance in the diatom species data.

Weighted averaging (WA) regression and calibration techniques were used to generate a transfer function, enabling annual mean TP (range 25–646 µg 1-1) to be inferred from the diatom species TP optima of 102 common taxa in the dataset (r2 = 0.79; RMSE = 0.161; RMSE(boot) = 0.279; n = 30). The model was applied to fossil diatom assemblages in a sediment core from Marsworth Reservoir, Hertfordshire, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with currently high TP levels of 476 µg 1-1, to reconstruct past epilimnetic annual mean TP concentrations.

The study shows that artificial, shallow waters can be suitable for palaeolimnological research and that it is possible to reliably infer lake water TP using the WA technique, across a large range of phosphorus concentrations. This method has the potential to provide limnologists, conservationists and water quality managers with an estimate of pre-enrichment phosphorus concentrations and an indication of the onset and development of eutrophication at a site. This information is essential for lake management strategies and restoration programmes.

Key words

diatoms phosphorus palaeolimnology transfer function United Kingdom shallow 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Bennion
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUnited Kingdom

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