Assessing changes in nutrient status in the Richmond River estuary, Australia, using paleolimnological methods

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Logan, B, Taffs, KH, Eyre, BD & Zawadski, A in press, 'Assessing changes in nutrient status in the Richmond River estuary, Australia, using paleolimnological methods', Journal of Paleolimnology, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 597-611.

The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10933-010-9457-x


Eutrophication from nutrient over-enrichment is a serious problem for the coastal zone and the estuarine environment globally. Australian estuaries are generally oligotrophic, but assessing whether they are becoming more eutrophic over time is inhibited by a lack of long-term monitoring data. The Richmond River, Australia, provided an ideal example of an estuary under anthropogenic pressure where the use of paleoecological techniques may potentially be used to reconstruct changes in nutrient status over time. Five cores were extracted from depositional areas in the Richmond River, and subjected to paleo-magnetic profiling and loss-on-ignition testing to ensure the core of greatest integrity was selected for further analytical work. Results from diatom and stable isotope analyses combined with 210Pb and AMS 14C dating show a strong indication that the total phosphorus levels in the Richmond River have fluctuated since 1940. Evidence also suggests that these fluctuations are most likely a function of climate. This study has successfully applied paleolimnological techniques to the estuarine environment to produce information that can be used by environmental managers to aid decision making in relation to nutrient control for the Richmond River. Further work using paleolimnological techniques should be aimed at the extraction of a core containing diatoms that pre-date European settlement and include analyses of specific lipids and fatty acid biomarkers.

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