Diatoms as indicators of environmental change in estuaries

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Taffs, KH, Saunders, KM & Logan, B 2017, 'Diatoms as indicators of environmental change in estuaries', in K Weckstrom, K Saunders, P Gell, CG Skilbeck (eds), Applications of Paleoenvironmental Techniques in Estuarine Studies, Springer, the Netherlands, pp. 277-294. ISBN: 9789402409888

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Diatoms are valuable paleo-indicators of natural processes and environmental changes caused by human activities in estuaries. They have been used to study sea level change, climate variability, floods and tsunamis, problems associated with changes in salinity and nutrients due to human activities, and to assess ecosystem responses to remediation, among others. There are many challenges such as issues of sediment disturbance and frustule preservation, as well as limitations on the development of transfer functions due to a lack of analogue sites. However, the application of diatoms to paleo-studies in a range of coastal habitats has enabled reliable and informative qualitative and quantitative reconstructions of environmental change. This chapter provides an overview of diatom estuarine ecology, different applications of diatoms to estuarine paleoecological research, their potential yet often informative limitations, and challenges going forward.