A Holocene record of human induced and natural environmental change from Lake Forsyth (Te Wairewa), New Zealand

Craig Woodward, J. Shulmeister

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)


    A 1.2 m sediment core from Lake Forsyth, Canterbury, New Zealand, records the development of the catchment/lake system over the last 7000 years, and its response to anthropogenic disturbance following European settlement c. 1840 AD. Pollen was used to reconstruct catchment vegetation history, while foraminifera, chironomids, Trichoptera, and the abundance of Pediastrum simplex colonies were used to infer past environmental conditions within the lake. The basal 30 cm of core records the transition of the Lake Forsyth Basin from a tidal embayment to a brackish coastal lake. Timing of closure of the lake mouth could not be accurately determined, but it appears that Lake Forsyth had stabilised as a slightly brackish, oligo mesotrophic shallow lake by about 500 years BP. Major deforestation occurred on Banks Peninsula between 1860 AD and 1890 AD. This deforestation is marked by the rapid decline in the main canopy trees (Prumnopitys taxifolia (matai) and Podocarpus totara/hallii (totara/mountain totara), an increase in charcoal, and the appearance of grasses. At around 1895 AD, pine appears in the record while a willow (Salix spp.) appears somewhat later. Redundancy analysis (RDA) of the pollen and aquatic species data revealed a significant relationship between regional vegetation and the abundance of aquatic taxa, with the percentage if disturbance pollen explaining most (14.8%) of the constrained variation in the aquatic species data. Principle components analysis (PCA) of aquatic species data revealed that the most significant period of rapid biological change in the lakes history corresponded to the main period of human disturbance in the catchment. Deforestation led to increased sediment and nutrient input into the lake which was accompanied by a major reduction in salinity. These changes are inferred from the appearance and proliferation of freshwater algae (Pediastrum simplex), an increase in abundance and diversity of chironomids, and the abundance of cases and remains from the larvae of the caddisfly, Oecetis unicolor. Eutrophication accompanied by increasing salinity of the lake is inferred from a significant peak and then decline of P. simplex, and a reduction in the abundance and diversity of aquatic invertebrates. The artificial opening of the lake to the Pacific Ocean, which began in the late 1800s, is the likely cause of the recent increase in salinity. An increase in salinity may have also encouraged blooms of the halotolerant and hepatotoxic cyanobacteria Nodularia spumigena.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)481-501
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Aquatic Science
    • Environmental Science(all)
    • Environmental Chemistry


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