Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 265–276 | Cite as

Representation of aquatic vegetation change by plant macrofossils in a small and shallow freshwater lake

  • Gina H. Clarke
  • Carl D. SayerEmail author
  • Simon Turner
  • Jorge Salgado
  • Sebastian Meis
  • Ian R. Patmore
  • Yan Zhao
Original Article


We explored spatial and temporal relationships between contemporary aquatic vegetation and surface sediment macrofossil remains in a small, shallow, English lake (Green Plantation Pond). The aquatic vegetation of Green Plantation Pond underwent a marked compositional change after 2005 with a shift from Elodea spp.-Potamogeton pusillus-Chara spp. to Ceratophyllum spp.-Chara spp.-Potamogeton crispus dominance. By comparing macrophyte and plant macrofossil distributions at multiple, closely spaced points in Green Plantation Pond for 2000 and 2008–2009, we studied the ability of macrofossils to track this major aquatic vegetation change. Representation of macrophytes by macrofossils was high with 63 and 76 % of extant plant species recorded by macro-remains in the 2000 and 2009 sediment surveys respectively. Nevertheless, plants were both over-represented (Nitella flexilis, Chara spp. and Zannichellia palustris) and under-represented (Ranunculus sect. Batrachium, Potamogeton spp.) in the sediment record in terms of relative macrofossil abundances and the number of occupied sample points. The study also revealed a lack of preservation of Elodea spp. leaf remains in the second (2009) survey compared to the first (2000) probably due to a longer time interval (5 vs. 10 months) between macrophyte and sediment sampling. Nevertheless, the macrofossils reliably recorded both the main shift in the contemporary vegetation (e.g. especially increases in Ceratophyllum spp. and P. crispus abundance) and other more subtle floristic changes (e.g. increases in Myriophyllum spicatum and Lemna spp.) exceptionally well. This study highlights the huge potential of macrofossils for tracking sub-decadal changes in the aquatic vegetation of small, shallow lakes.


Submerged macrophytes Palaeolimnology Plant macrofossils Shallow lake Taphonomy Dispersal Surface sediments 



We would like to thank Nicholas Deterding, David Tabrett and the Kelling estate for allowing access to Green Plantation Pond. Tom Davidson, Ruth Rawcliffe, Pete “The Map” Robinson, Ian and Annie Morrissey, Jo Atherton, Ginnie Panizzo, Dave and Daksha Emson, Derek Sayer and Terry Linford are thanked for field assistance at Green Plantation Pond over many years. We are also grateful to Nick Stewart for kindly providing the charophyte identifications and to Miles Irving for the production of Fig. 1. This paper was written with support to Gina Clarke and Carl Sayer from the European Union FP7 project ‘BIOFRESH’ (Contract No. 226874). We would like to take this opportunity to thank Hilary Birks for her considerable assistance with macrofossil-based research in the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC), UCL, including the teaching of a long-running (15 years) and very successful short course on macrofossil analysis, assistance with establishing the UCL macrofossil reference collection and considerable help and advice to ECRC members over many years. Thank you so much Hilary, for all of this help, and for inspiring a new generation of dedicated “macrofossilers”. We dedicate this paper to you.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gina H. Clarke
    • 1
  • Carl D. Sayer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Simon Turner
    • 1
  • Jorge Salgado
    • 1
  • Sebastian Meis
    • 2
  • Ian R. Patmore
    • 1
  • Yan Zhao
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Ianaplan GbRNettetalGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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