Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 495–509 | Cite as

Plant macrofossil assemblages from surface sediment represent contemporary species and growth forms of aquatic vegetation in a shallow Mediterranean lake

  • Jorge García-Girón
  • Camino Fernández-Aláez
  • Alejandro Nistal-García
  • Margarita Fernández-Aláez
Original paper


Macrofossils are known as a useful tool in reconstructing their original plant communities. However, most studies have been focused on comparing the composition and distribution of living plant communities and their remains in temperate lakes. Mediterranean shallow lakes have been historically far less studied and little is known about the relationships between Mediterranean macrophyte communities and their remains. The aim of our study is to assess how contemporary aquatic macrophyte communities are represented by their sedimentary remains in terms of composition, distribution and concordance between the contemporary and the subfossil assemblages in a procrustean superimposition space, and to determine which surface sediment cores, collected along a depth gradient, may represent best the whole-lake macrofossil assemblage. These analyses were carried out for both species and macrophyte growth forms (submerged hydrophytes, floating-leaved hydrophytes, helophytes and charophytes) in order to check which of the two (species and growth forms) were represented best by their macro-remains. The most abundant present-day species (Myriophyllum alterniflorum DC. and Potamogeton trichoides L.) were under-represented while Characeae and some floating-leaved hydrophytes (Polygonum amphibium L. and Ranunculus peltatus Schrank) were over-represented in sedimentary samples. Additionally, macro-remains of submerged hydrophytes and helophytes were generally found in the central areas and in close proximity to contemporary vegetation, whereas floating-leaved hydrophytes distributed close to the near-shore. Notwithstanding some disparities between contemporary vegetation and their macrofossil assemblages, we found a good agreement between present-day and sedimentary datasets for both species and macrophyte growth forms. Furthermore, our study suggests that sediment cores from deep areas are more likely to represent best the whole-lake macrofossil assemblage because of their high diversity, equitability and heterogeneity. We conclude that aquatic macrophyte subfossils from the central areas of the basin can be a very useful tool in tracking the species composition and structure of the original macrophyte communities in shallow Mediterranean lakes. Additionally, when considering the use of macro-remains to reconstruct the composition and structure of macrophyte growth forms, we recommend a multicore approach that uses transects running from the shore to the lake center.


Macrophytes Mediterranean lakes Plant macrofossils Surface sediment Shallow lakes 



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Group for Limnology and Environmental Biotechnology, Ecology SectionUniversity of LeónLeónSpain

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