Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 393–412 | Cite as

The Holocene–Anthropocene transition in lakes of western Spitsbergen, Svalbard (Norwegian High Arctic): climate change and nitrogen deposition

  • Sofia U. Holmgren
  • Christian Bigler
  • Ólafur Ingólfsson
  • Alexander P. Wolfe
Original Paper


Lake sediments from four small lakes on western Spitsbergen (Svalbard Archipelago, Norwegian High Arctic) preserve biostratigraphic and isotopic evidence for a complex suite of twentieth century environmental changes. At Lake Skardtjørna and Lake Tjørnskardet on Nordenskiöldkysten, there is a marked diatom floristic change coupled to increased diatom concentrations beginning around 1920. At Lake Istjørna and Lake Istjørnelva, 25 km southwest of Longyearbyen, both diatom total valve and chrysophyte stomatocyst concentrations have increased dramatically since the beginning of the 1900s. The early twentieth century changes are probably related to climate warming after the Little Ice Age. However, the most pronounced changes in diatom assemblages seem to have occurred in the last few decades. At the same time, nitrogen stable isotopes in sediment organic matter in two of the lakes became progressively depleted by ~2‰, which is consistent with diffuse atmospheric inputs from anthropogenic sources and attendant fertilization. These data suggest that climate change and nitrogen deposition may be acting together in driving these lakes towards new ecological states that are unique in the context of the Holocene.


Anthropocene Arctic Diatoms Nitrogen Paleolimnology Spitsbergen 



We thank the Swedish Research Council and Ymer-80 for supporting this study, Jørn Dybdahl for logistics, Jack Cornett and Elis Holm for sediment chronology, and Eric Steig for isotopic measurements. We thank Professor Hilary H. Birks for providing plant macrofossil samples. Professor Barbara Wohlfarth is gratefully acknowledged for advice and taking part in fieldwork.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sofia U. Holmgren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian Bigler
    • 3
  • Ólafur Ingólfsson
    • 2
    • 4
  • Alexander P. Wolfe
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.The University Centre in SvalbardLongyearbyenNorway
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  4. 4.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  5. 5.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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