Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 399–415 | Cite as

Eutrophication of a small, deep lake in southern New Zealand: the effects of twentieth-century forest clearance, changing nutrient influx, light penetration and bird behaviour

  • Craig Woodward
Original paper


This study provides a high resolution multi-proxy record of the response of an aquatic ecosystem (Alexander Lake) to forest clearance in New Zealand in the late twentieth century (ca. 1950–2006 AD). New chironomid-based transfer functions for lake water total nitrogen (TN) concentration were applied to the Alexander Lake chironomid record. A test of the significance of reconstructions based on multiple model types indicates that a model with the highest r2 and lowest root mean squared error of prediction may not necessarily perform the best when applied to a particular site. The chironomid-based TN reconstruction and other proxies suggest a complex response by a stained water (dystrophic) lake in a forested catchment to deforestation. Minor perturbations and nutrient influx may favour increased phytoplankton production, but continued light attenuation by dissolved organic carbon and humic compounds prevents proliferation of submerged macrophytes. Complete mechanical forest clearance resulted in a short term pulse of nutrients and eutrophication. The long term effect of deforestation was to increase light penetration and favour the growth of submerged macrophytes. Continued eutrophication of Alexander Lake could be due to a contribution of bird-derived nutrients. Deforestation around Alexander Lake has created a perfect moulting site for Paradise Shelducks (Tadorna variegata Gmelin). The input of total phosphorus from T. variegata could be enough to trigger blooms of Microcystis that currently occur in the lake. Changes in bird behaviour in response to changes in vegetation should therefore be considered a possible result of past (including prehistoric) and future deforestation in New Zealand.


New Zealand Deforestation Eutrophication Lake Chironomids Transfer function 



The author would like to thank the land owner (Patrick Alexander) for permission to sample the site, Natacha Issler and Nicki Whitehouse for assistance collecting cores, measurements and water samples, the technical support staff at the University of Canterbury, Richard Holdaway for discussion about the role of birds in eutrophication, Jamie Shulmeister and two journal reviewers for comments on the manuscript. Financial support for this work came from Marsden contract UOC301 and the Mason Scientific and Technical Trust (Department of Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 728 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Geography Planning and Environmental ManagementThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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