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Filling the “data gap”: Using paleoecology to investigate the decline of Najas flexilis (a rare aquatic plant)

Bishop, IJ; Bennion, H; Sayer, CD; Patmore, IR; Yang, H; (2019) Filling the “data gap”: Using paleoecology to investigate the decline of Najas flexilis (a rare aquatic plant). Geo: Geography and Environment , 6 (2) , Article e00081. 10.1002/geo2.81. Green open access

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Abstract

In the absence of long‐term monitoring records, paleoecology can be used to extend knowledge of species and community ecology into the past. The rare and declining aquatic plant Najas flexilis is a priority species for conservation across Europe, and is an ideal candidate for paleoecological study; not only are historical records of the plant sparse, but its seeds are commonly found and well preserved in lake sediment cores. In this study, we investigate the timing and causes of decline at two UK sites at which N. flexilis has recently become extinct: Esthwaite Water (England) and Loch of Craiglush (Scotland). For both sites, multiple paleoecological indicators and available historical biological records and monitoring data are compared to numbers of N. flexilis seeds enumerated in dated sediment cores representing the last 150 years. At Esthwaite Water, N. flexilis seeds were found in abundance in association with indicators of a clear, oligo‐mesotrophic, mildly alkaline lake. Eutrophication led to the disappearance of N. flexilis in the 1980s. By contrast, far fewer N. flexilis seeds were found in a core from Loch of Craiglush, and the current period of N. flexilis absence was found to be one of several over the last 100 years. Species represented in cores taken from Loch of Craiglush were indicative of slightly more acidic conditions than Esthwaite Water. Given that N. flexilis favours circumneutral to alkaline conditions, it is possible that Loch of Craiglush has not always been favourable for the plant. These findings have important implications for future conservation efforts, particularly at Esthwaite Water where they suggest that recent failed attempts to reintroduce the species may have been premature. More generally, this study demonstrates the value of paleoecological techniques as a means to provide the long‐term context that is often missing from conservation planning and management.

Type: Article
Title: Filling the “data gap”: Using paleoecology to investigate the decline of Najas flexilis (a rare aquatic plant)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/geo2.81
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/geo2.81
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10077585
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