Palaeolimnological evidence for submerged plant loss in a floodplain lake associated with accelerated catchment soil erosion (Murray River, Australia)

Michael Reid, C.D Sayer, A.P Kershaw, H Heijnis

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    Shallow lakes have been described as existing in two alternative equilibrium states, dominated by either submerged plants or phytoplankton. Causes of, often catastrophic, shifts between these states have been widely debated but may often result from displacement of the dominant community by stochastic influence. In Australian cut-off river meanders (also known as ‘billabongs’), anecdotal and palaeolimnological evidence suggests widespread loss of aquatic macrophytes since European occupation of the region c. post-1800. Our detailed and high-resolution stratigraphic study of a sediment core from Hogan’s Billabong (Murray River, Australia) seeks to identify the causes of the loss of aquatic macrophytes. Little direct evidence of the past extent and composition of submerged macrophyte communities was recovered. Nevertheless, results derived from other sediment proxies, including declines in the abundance of epiphytic diatoms and in plant-associated invertebrates, provide further indirect evidence of macrophyte disappearance. Despite limitations with radiometric dating, the sequence of events in the derived record suggests that a period of high abiotic turbidity, leading to a critical reduction in water transparency and caused by widespread erosion during the late 19th century, is the most likely factor contributing to loss of submerged vegetation from this billabong
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)191-208
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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