Matching thirty years of ecosystem monitoring with a high resolution microfossil record

Ulf Hauptfleisch, A. Einarsson, Thorbjørn Andersen, Anthony Newton, Arnthor Gardarsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Monitoring of the ecosystem of Lake Mývatn, Iceland, since 1975 has revealed extreme fluctuations in important food web components, such as chironomids and cladocerans,with amplitudes of several orders of magnitude and a period of 5–8 years. This study uses sediment cores from the lake to examine if the food web fluctuations appear in the microfossil record of the sediment.
2. Dating was achieved by means of a combination of 137Cs and volcanic tephra and was fine-tuned by wiggle-matching of chironomid microfossil and monitoring data.
3. Cladocera exuviae and chironomid egg capsules in the uppermost 34 cm of sediment were compared with the monitoring record that consisted of 30 years of window trap catches of flying chironomids and a 16-year record of chydorid Cladocera caught in activity traps.
4. The observed chironomid and cladoceran population fluctuations were reflected in the sediment record of chironomid eggs and of the exuviae of three of seven cladocerans: Alonella nana, Alona rectangula and Eurycercus lamellatus, which also had the most extreme fluctuations in the monitoring data (3–4 orders of magnitude). Chydorus sphaericus, and to some extent Alona quadrangularis and Acroperus harpae, showed regular fluctuations in the core that the monitoring did not reveal. Density of subfossil chironomid eggs correlated
positively with that of larval head capsules but not with other microfossils.
5. This study shows a reasonably good correspondence between the fossil records of chironomids and cladocerans on the one hand and biomonitoring data on the other. The results pave the way for an extension of the food web history to much earlier time intervals of the ecosystem, allowing the study of long-term variation in the food web dynamics, including the impact of climatic variation and other external forcing. The results also indicate the usefulness of chironomid egg capsules in palaeolimnological studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1986-1997
Number of pages13
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number10
Early online date18 Oct 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


  • Chironomidae
  • Chydoridae
  • Lake Myvatn
  • palaeolimnology
  • population fluctuations


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