Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 415–431 | Cite as

Defining ecological and chemical reference conditions and restoration targets for nine European lakes

  • Helen BennionEmail author
  • Gavin L. Simpson
  • N. John Anderson
  • Gina Clarke
  • Xuhui Dong
  • Anders Hobæk
  • Piero Guilizzoni
  • Aldo Marchetto
  • Carl D. Sayer
  • Hansjörg Thies
  • Monica Tolotti
Original paper


This paper aims to determine the ecological and chemical reference conditions (~1800–1850 AD) and degree of floristic change at nine enriched lakes, covering a range of types across Europe, using fossil diatom assemblages in dated sediment cores and application of total phosphorus (TP) transfer functions. Additionally the study assesses the potential of analogue matching as a technique for identifying reference sites and for estimating reference TP concentrations for the study lakes using a training set of 347 European lakes and 719 diatom taxa. Oligotrophic, acidophilous to circumneutral taxa were predominant in the reference samples of several of the deep lakes, and benthic Fragilaria spp. dominated the reference samples of two high alkalinity shallow lakes. The degree of floristic change from the reference sample, assessed using the squared chord distance (SCD) dissimilarity coefficient, revealed that two sites had experienced slight change (Lago Maggiore, Felbrigg Lake), five experienced moderate change (Mjoesa, Loch Davan, Loch Leven, White Lough, Esthwaite Water), and two showed evidence of major change (Groby Pool, Piburger See). For three lakes, there were no analogues in the diatom dataset owing to the uniqueness and diversity of the diatom reference assemblages. For the remaining six sites the number of analogues ranged from 2 to 44. For two deep lakes most of the analogues seemed appropriate as they were of the same type and had low TP concentrations. However, for two other deep lakes and two shallow lakes some of the analogues differed markedly in their depth and alkalinity from the lake in question or had TP concentrations seemingly too high to represent reference conditions suggesting that the analogues may not be suitable as reference sites. For the deep lakes, similar reference TP values were calculated using the EDDI Combined TP transfer function and the analogue matching technique with concentrations typically <20 μg L−1. However, for the shallow lakes, the analogue matching method produced inferred values considerably higher than those of the transfer function. The wide ecological tolerances of many of the diatom taxa found in the reference samples most likely explain the selection of inappropriate analogue sites. In summary, the study demonstrates that palaeoecological techniques can play a valuable role in determining reference conditions and indicates that the analogue matching technique has the potential to be a useful tool for identifying appropriate reference sites for lakes impacted by eutrophication.


Analogue matching Diatoms Eutrophication Reference conditions Restoration targets 



This paper was written with support from the European Union (FP6 Integrated Project ‘Euro-limpacs: European project to evaluate impacts of global change on freshwater ecosystems’ GOCE-CT-2003-505540) and the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER, project number WFD08). Thank you to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Bennion
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gavin L. Simpson
    • 1
  • N. John Anderson
    • 2
  • Gina Clarke
    • 1
  • Xuhui Dong
    • 1
  • Anders Hobæk
    • 3
    • 4
  • Piero Guilizzoni
    • 5
  • Aldo Marchetto
    • 5
  • Carl D. Sayer
    • 1
  • Hansjörg Thies
    • 6
  • Monica Tolotti
    • 7
  1. 1.Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK
  3. 3.Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)Nordnes, BergenNorway
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  5. 5.CNR-Istituto per lo Studio degli EcosistemiVerbania PallanzaItaly
  6. 6.Institute of EcologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  7. 7.Fondazione E. Mach, Istituto Agrario di S. Michele all’AdigeIASMA Research and Innovation Centre, Environment and Natural Resources AreaS. Michele all’Adige, TrentoItaly

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