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How effective are plant macrofossils as a proxy for macrophyte presence? The case of Najas flexilis in Scotland

Bishop, IJ; Bennion, H; Patmore, IR; Sayer, CD; (2017) How effective are plant macrofossils as a proxy for macrophyte presence? The case of Najas flexilis in Scotland. Journal of Paleolimnology 10.1007/s10933-017-9988-5. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

© 2017 The Author(s) Preventing biodiversity loss is a key aim of modern conservation, and paleolimnology can inform conservation strategies for target species and habitats where other data are unavailable. Care must be taken to fully understand the possibilities and limits of such techniques, particularly where they concern single species. This study uses plant and seed distribution data to inform macrofossil reconstructions of the rare macrophyte Najas flexilis (Slender Naiad) in Scotland, UK. It answers three questions: (a) How does the location of N. flexilis seeds in the surface sediments relate to the distribution of N. flexilis plants? (b) How do the numbers of seeds in surface sediments correlate with % cover of N. flexilis plants across lakes with differing N. flexilis abundances? (c) What are the implications of these findings for paleolimnology? Percentage N. flexilis cover and number of N. flexilis seeds in surface sediments were recorded at ~100 sample points at each of three sites; one where the species was abundant, one where it was occasional and one where it was extinct. At all sites, N. flexilis seeds were present in surface sediments across the entire lake. No correlation between % cover N. flexilis and the number of seeds in surface sediments was found within individual sites. The distribution of seeds in these lakes appeared to be related to multiple environmental and ecological variables including latitude and longitude (proxies for water currents). This is attributed to the ability of seed-bearing N. flexilis plants to fragment and float large distances on water. Between sites, there was a significant difference in the mean seed counts, with higher mean seed counts corresponding to higher abundances of N. flexilis plants. It is concluded that N. flexilis is likely to be well represented in sediment cores taken from any location within a basin, but that care should be taken when inferring changes in N. flexilis abundance from changes in the numbers of seeds in sediment samples. This work demonstrates that the reproductive ecology (number of seeds produced and dispersal mechanisms) is an important factor to consider when attempting reconstructions of single aquatic plant populations from macrofossil records.

Type: Article
Title: How effective are plant macrofossils as a proxy for macrophyte presence? The case of Najas flexilis in Scotland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s10933-017-9988-5
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10933-017-9988-5
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Paleoecology, Rare species, Conservation, Macrophytes, Freshwater, Najas flexilis
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/1567771
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