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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Use of sedimentary algal pigment analyses to infer past lake-water total phosphorus concentrations

Belle, Simon; Delcamp, Elise; Nilsson, L. Jenny; Freiberg, Rene; Appleby, G. Peter; Piliposian, T. Gayane; Tonno, Ilmar


We tested the feasibility of using sedimentary algal pigment analyses by spectral deconvolution to infer past lake-water total phosphorus concentrations. We established equations that link lake-water nutrient concentrations and sediment pigment concentrations, using a combination of calibration in both space and time, with a training set of 31 Swedish lakes. The calibration dataset yielded a significant positive relationship between total carotenoid concentrations and lake-water total phosphorus concentrations. We also compared sediment-pigment-based nutrient inferences with time series of water column monitoring data to evaluate whether temporal changes in total phosphorus concentrations are well captured by analysis of sedimentary pigments. We found that changes in pigment preservation through time can alter the relationship between concentrations of lake-water nutrients and sedimentary pigments, thus limiting the reliability of historical ecological conditions inferred from pigments in the sediment. Our data suggested that ratios of Chlorophyll derivatives to total carotenoids (CD/TC ratio) and Chlorophyll a to Chlorophyll derivatives (CPI) can be used as proxies for pigment preservation. Using our approach, inferred temporal changes in water-column total phosphorus concentrations in lakes are promising, but require further development, specifically with respect to the influence of pigment degradation in both the water column and sediments, as well as the factors that control such degradation.


Paleolimnology; Sedimentary pigments; Spectrophotometric analysis; Gauss-peak spectra; Reference conditions; Eutrophication

Published in

Journal of Paleolimnology
2022, Volume: 68, number: 4, pages: 415-426
Publisher: SPRINGER