Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 35–44 | Cite as

The misrepresentation of the planktonic diatom assemblage in traps and sediments: southern Lake Malaŵi, Africa

  • Kurt A. Haberyan


Sediment trap collections near Cape Maclear, Lake Malaŵi, were compared to phytoplankton and surface sediment diatoms to assess taphonomic variations. The sedimenting diatom community became progressively different from the diatom plankton with increasing depth: long Nitzschia species were strongly under-represented in the traps (annually, 53% among planktonic diatoms vs. 14% in the offshore 29 m trap; p≪0.005 by Kruskal-Wallis test), while Melosira was greatly over-represented in traps (32% vs. 57%; p<0.005). The abundances of the minor taxa (Rhopalodia, Fragilaria, Cymbella, and Surirella) were greatly enhanced in traps relative to the plankton, but they were still relatively uncommon (<3% of all diatoms each). Differences in grazing, dissolution, and sinking rates alone are insufficient to account for these distortions; a combination of these, plus perhaps unknown factors, strongly influence the deposited assemblage.

These misrepresentations were also present at the sediment surface. The greatest discrepancy was noted for Melosira (32% of plankton vs. 53% of sediment surface diatoms; p<0.005) and for elongate Nitzschia species (53% of plankton vs. 0.8% in sediments; p<0.005). In Lake Malaŵi, at least, paleolimnologists must not assume a straightforward correlation of modern and fossil assemblages.

Key words

diatom taphonomy sedimentation paleolimnology sediment traps 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. BattarbeeR. W., 1981. Changes in the diatom microflora of a eutrophic lake since 1900 from a comparison of old algal samples and the sedimentary record. Holarc. Ecol. 4: 73–81.Google Scholar
  2. BeadleL. C., 1981. The inland waters of tropical Africa. 2ed. Longman, New York. 475 pp.Google Scholar
  3. BeauchampR. S. A., 1953. Hydrological data from Lake Nyasa. J. Ecol. 41: 226–239.Google Scholar
  4. BeauchampR. S. A., 1964. The rift valley lakes of Africa. Verh. int. Ver. Limnol. 15: 91–99.Google Scholar
  5. BloeschJ. & N. M.Burns, 1980. A critical review of sediment trap technique. Schweiz. Z. Hydrobiol. 42: 15–55.Google Scholar
  6. BlomqvistS. & L.Hakanson, 1981. A review on sediment traps in aquatic environments. Arch. Hydrobiol. 91: 101–132.Google Scholar
  7. BonnyA. P., 1976. Recruitment of pollen to the seston and sediment of some English Lake District lakes. J. Ecol. 64: 859–887.Google Scholar
  8. DavisM. B., 1963. On the theory of pollen analysis. Amer. J. Sci. 261: 897–912.Google Scholar
  9. DavisM. B. & L. B.Brubaker, 1973. Differential sedimentation of pollen grains in lakes. Limnol. Oceanogr. 18: 635–646.Google Scholar
  10. EcclesD. H., 1974. An outline of the physical limnology of Lake Malaŵi (Lake Nyasa). Limnol. Oceanogr. 19: 730–742.Google Scholar
  11. EppleyR. W., 1977. The growth and culture of diatoms. In WernerD. (ed), The Biology of Diatoms. University of California Press, Berkeley. 498 pp.Google Scholar
  12. FaegriK. & J.Iverson 1975. Textbook of pollen analysis. 3ed. Monksgaard, Copenhagen, 295 pp.Google Scholar
  13. FerranteJ. G. & J. I.Parker, 1978. The influence of planktonic and benthic crustaceans on silicon cycling in Lake Michigan, USA. Verh. int. Ver. Limnol. 20: 324–328.Google Scholar
  14. GardnerW. D., 1980. Field assessment of sediment traps. J. Mar. Res. 38: 41–52.Google Scholar
  15. HaberyanK. A., 1985 The role of copepod fecal pellets in the deposition of diatoms in Lake Tanganyika. Limnol. Oceanogr. 30: 1010–1023.Google Scholar
  16. Haberyan, K. A., 1988. Phycology, sedimentology, and paleolimnology near Cape Maclear, Lake Malaŵi, Africa. Ph. D dissertation, Duke University, Durham, N. C. 246 pp.Google Scholar
  17. Haberyan, K. A. & O. K. Mhone, submitted. Observations on the algae near Cape Maclear, southern Lake Malaŵi, Africa. 21 ms pp., 6 tab., 6 fig. Submitted to Limnol. Oceanogr., December 1988.Google Scholar
  18. HaworthE. Y., 1976. The changes in the composition of the diatom assemblages found in the surface sediments of Blelham Tarn in the English Lake District during 1973. Ann. Bot. 40: 1195–1205.Google Scholar
  19. HaworthE. Y., 1980. Comparison of continuous phytoplankton records with the diatom stratigraphy in the recent sediments of Blelham Tarn. Limnol. oceanogr. 25: 1093–1103.Google Scholar
  20. HeckyR. E. & H. J.Kling, 1987. Phytoplankton ecology of the great lakes in the rift valleys of central Africa. Arch. Hydrobiol. Beih. Ergebn. Limnol. 25: 197–228.Google Scholar
  21. HonjoS., 1976. Coccoliths: production, transportation, and sedimentation. Mar. Micropaleontol. 1: 65–79.Google Scholar
  22. HustedtF., 1949. Susswässer diatomeen. In Exploration du Parc National Albert, Mission 2, fasc. 8. Institute des Parcs Nationaux du Congo Belge, Brussels, 199 pp.Google Scholar
  23. HutschinsonG. E., 1957. A treatise on limnology, v. 1(1). The geography and physics of lakes. Wiley, New York. 540 pp.Google Scholar
  24. JohnsonT. C. & R. E.Hecky, 1988. A silica budget for Lake Malaŵi: net fluvial input, biogenic opal preservation and burial. Eos 69: 1144 (abstract).Google Scholar
  25. Owen, R. B., R. Crossley, T. C. Johnson, S. Davidson-Hirschmann, D. Tweddle, D. Eccles & D. E. Engstrom, in prep. Major low levels of Lake Malawi and implications for evolution rates in cichlid fishes. 24 ms pp.Google Scholar
  26. PorterK. G., 1973. Selective grazing and differential digestion of algae by zooplankton. Nature 244: 179–180.Google Scholar
  27. SchraderH. J., 1971. Fecal pellets: role in sedimentation of pelagic diatoms. Science 174: 55–57.Google Scholar
  28. SimolaH., 1977. Diatom succession in the formation of annually laminated sediment in Lovojärvi, a small eutrophicated lake. Ann. Bot. Fennici 14: 143–148.Google Scholar
  29. VanMeelL., 1954. Le phytoplancton. In Exploration Hydrobiologique du Lac Tanganyika, vol. 4(1). Institute Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Brussels. 680 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt A. Haberyan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations