Diatom community response to climate variability over the past 37,000 years in the sub-tropics of the Southern Hemisphere

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Hembrow, SC, Taffs, KH, Atahan, P, Parr, J, Zawadzki, A & Heijnis, H 2014, 'Diatom community response to climate variability over the past 37,000 years in the sub-tropics of the Southern Hemisphere' Science of The Total Environment, vol. 468-469, pp. 774-784.

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Climate change is impacting global surface water resources, increasing the need for a deeper understanding of the interaction between climate and biological diversity. This is particularly the case in the Southern Hemisphere sub-tropics, where little information exists on the aquatic biota response to climate variations. Palaeolimnological techniques, in particular the use of diatoms, are well established and can significantly contribute to the understanding of climatic variability and the impacts that change in climate have on aquatic ecosystems. A sediment core from Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island (Australia), was used to investigate interactions between climate influences and aquatic ecosystems. This study utilises a combination of proxies including biological (diatom), geochemical and chronological techniques to investigate long-term aquatic changes within the perched-dune lake. A combination of 210Pb and AMS 14C dates showed that the retrieved sediment represented a history of ca. 37,000 cal. yBP. The sedimentation rate in Lake McKenzie is very low, ranging on average from 0.11 mm to 0.26 mm per year. A sediment hiatus was observed between ca. 18,300 and 14,000 cal. yBP suggesting a period of dry conditions at the site. The diatom record shows little variability over the period of record, with benthic, freshwater acidic tolerant species dominating. Relative abundance of planktonic species and geochemical results indicates a period of increased water depth and lake productivity in the early Holocene and a gradual decrease in effective precipitation throughout the Holocene. Results from this study not only support earlier work conducted on Fraser Island using pollen reconstructions but also demonstrate that diatom community diversity has been relatively consistent throughout the Holocene and late Pleistocene with only minor cyclical fluctuation evident. This record is consistent with the few other aquatic palaeoecological records from the Southern Hemisphere sub-tropics.

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