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Analysis of fossil pigments from algae and bacteria in meromictic Lake Fidler, Tasmania, and its application to lake management

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 11:18 authored by Hodgson, DA, Wright, SW, Tyler, PA, Noel DaviesNoel Davies
Lake Fidler is an ectogenic meromictic lake with a monimolimnion maintained by periodic incursions of brackish water from the lower Gordon River estuary. A dam across the middle reaches of the Gordon River has restricted these incursions of brackish water and meromictic stability has rapidly declined. A palaeolimnological study was carried in order to assess the historical development of meromixis and the impact of the dam on the microbiological communities in the lake. Fossil pigments in a 17 m sediment core were analysed using reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography (rp-HPLC) and mass spectrometry (MS). In addition, taphonomic studies of pigment production, deposition and degradation in the water column and surface sediments were used to identify planktonic and benthic pigment degradation processes and constrain the stratigraphic interpretation. Results comparing the pigment composition of pelagic sediment traps and littoral surface sediments indicated that the core from the centre of the lake would permit a historical reconstruction of planktonic bacterial and algal communities. Marked increases in prokaryotic pigments ca 3500 yr B.P. suggested the possible colonisation of a chemocline by phototrophic bacteria. Further changes in chlorophyll: carotenoid ratios and changes in relative abundances of both chlorophyll a and bacteriochlorophyll c derivatives also indicated that a change in the depositional environment had occurred; possibly due to altered stratification or anoxia. From this we infer the onset of either intermittent or permanent meromixis. Further increases in prokaryotic pigment abundance suggested that the present state of permanent meromixis was firmly established by 2070 ± 50 14C yr B.P., and diatom analysis confirmed the development of a stable mixolimnion. High resolution studies of the top 10 cm of sediments measured pigments in mean concentrations of 15.1 ng g -1 with a mean S.D. of only 2.78 indicating little change in pigment abundance since the construction of the dam. Thus, Lake Fidler still retains most of the features of meromixis. However, evidence from nearby Lake Morrison and Sulphide Pool has shown that any further declines in meromictic stability will cause a rapid reversion to holomixis. Palaeolimnological evidence from the early stages of meromictic development of Lake Fidler suggests that such reversion to holomixis may not permanently eliminate all the microbiological communities, and that, given time, they may return and prosper with re-establishment of a suitable chemocline. These studies will guide recommendations for a management strategy to prevent the further decay of meromixis in the Gordon River lakes.


Publication title

Journal of Paleolimnology








School of Natural Sciences


Kluwer Academic Publishers

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Coastal and estuarine systems and management not elsewhere classified

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