03 May 2021

03 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Towards a history of Holocene P dynamics for the northern hemisphere using lake sediment geochemical records

Madeleine Moyle, John Francis Boyle, and Richard Christopher Chiverrell Madeleine Moyle et al.
  • Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZT, UK

Abstract. Present day lake water phosphorus (P) enrichment and accelerated P cycling are changes superimposed on a dynamic Holocene history of landscape recovery from glaciation, changes in climate, and long-term low-intensity human activity. Knowledge of the history of long-term P dynamics is essential for understanding present-day landscape P export and for managing both terrestrial and aquatic environments. This study is the first attempt to constrain the timing and magnitude of terrestrial changes in Holocene P dynamics across the Northern Hemisphere using lake sediment records.

Here we reconstruct trajectories in terrestrial Holocene P dynamics for the Northern Hemisphere. We apply a simple process model to published lake sediment geochemical P records from 24 sites, producing records of landscape P yield and reconstructing lake water total phosphorus (TP) concentrations. Individual site trajectories of landscape P yield and lake water TP vary systematically, with differences attributable to local landscape development history. Three distinct traits are apparent. Mountain sites with minimal direct human impact show falling P supply and conform to conceptual models of natural soil development (Trait 1). Lowland sites where substantial (pre-)historic agriculture was present show progressively increasing P supply (Trait 2). Lowland sites may also show a rapid acceleration in P supply over the last few centuries, where high intensity land use, including settlements and farming, are present (Trait 3). Where data availability permitted comparison, our reconstructed TP records agree well with both monitored lake water TP data and diatom inferred TP, and our sediment inferred P yields are comparable to reported catchment export coefficients.

Our reconstructions form the first systematic assessment of average terrestrial P export for the Northern Hemisphere over the Holocene and provide the empirical data needed for constraining long-term landscape P cycling models and values for terrestrial P export that could be used for ocean P cycling models. The long-term perspective provided by our sediment-inferred TP can be used to identify pre-disturbance baselines for lake water quality, information essential to target-driven lake management. We find the first detectable anthropogenic impacts on P cycling ca. 6000 BP, with more substantial impacts as early as 3000 BP. Consequently, to characterise pre-disturbance lake P conditions at Trait 2 and Trait 3 sites it is necessary to consider time periods before the arrival of early farmers. Our use of trait classifications has a predictive power for sites without sediment records, allowing prediction of TP baselines and P trajectories based on regional landscape development history.

Madeleine Moyle et al.

Status: open (until 14 Jun 2021)

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Madeleine Moyle et al.

Data sets

Holocene records of Sediment Inferred [lake water] Total Phosphorus concentration (SI-TP) and landscape phosphorus yield Madeleine Moyle, John Boyle, Richard Chiverrell

Madeleine Moyle et al.


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Short summary
We reconstruct Holocene landscape P yield and lake water TP concentration for 24 sites across the Northern Hemisphere by applying a process model to published lake sediment geochemical records. We find sites with the same landscape development history show similar geochemical profiles depending on climate, human impact and other local factors. Our reconstructions can be used to understand present day terrestrial P cycling, lake water nutrient status, and export of terrestrial P to the oceans.