Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Spatial and temporal variability of lake ontogeny in south-western Greenland

Law, Antonia



Holocene palaeolimnological records of diatoms and ß carotene (a proxy for aquatic production) from four lakes in the low Arctic region of south-western Greenland were used to investigate the role of climate on lake ontogeny. Two of the lakes are located in the maritime, coastal region near Sisimiut and two inland close to the head of Kangerlussuaq fjord, where there is a more continental climate. Diatom records from the four lakes (AT1, AT4, SS1381, SS8) had similar long-term ontogeny trends, independent of climatic setting and the changes are interpreted as responses to first order weathering controls on catchment/lake chemistry. Short-term excursions from these broad trends occurred in one coastal site (AT4) caused by intense erosion of the steep catchment, and at inland sites where temporary hydrological closure and lake level decline occurred during the mid-Holocene (~8000 – 5000 cal a BP). Algal production (as ß carotene) was more closely and consistently correlated with climatic changes; it peaked during the mid-Holocene, the warmest period of the Holocene, at all sites and there were transient increases in production in inland lakes during the Medieval Climate Anomaly and Little Ice Age because of fertilization through increased aeolian dust deposition. A synthesis of seven palaeolimnological records from this region identified that only the mid-Holocene was correlated with diatom stratigraphic zones and there was considerable among-site variability in later Holocene lake response to climate forcing in this area. Comparable long-term trends in species assemblage turnover (DCA/CA axis 1 scores) clearly demonstrate that lakes have predictable ontogeny trends in this region, characterised by maximum alkalinity and nutrient availability in the first few millennia followed by progressive oligotrophication and alkalinity loss. However, individual lake and catchment characteristics (lake morphology, catchment geomorphology), when modified by climatic change (vegetation cover, erosion, weathering rates, aeolian dust deposition, lake level) can diverge from this ontogeny template leading to complex ecological transitions in lakes from this region.


Law, A. (2015). Spatial and temporal variability of lake ontogeny in south-western Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 1 -16.

Acceptance Date Aug 6, 2015
Publication Date Oct 15, 2015
Journal Quaternary Science Reviews
Print ISSN 0277-3791
Publisher Elsevier
Pages 1 -16
Publisher URL