Long-term perspectives on terrestrial and aquatic carbon cycling from palaeolimnology

S. McGowan (Corresponding author), N.J. Anderson, M.E. Edwards, P.G. Langdon, V.J. Jones, S. Turner, M. van Hardenbroek, E. Whiteford, E. Wiik

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Lakes are active processors and collectors of carbon (C) and thus recognized as quantitatively important within the terrestrial C cycle. Better integration of palaeolimnology (lake sediment core analyses) with limnological C budgeting approaches has the potential to enhance understanding of lacustrine C processing and sequestration. Palaeolimnology simultaneously assimilates materials from across lake habitats, terrestrial watersheds, and airsheds to provide a uniquely broad overview of the terrestrial-atmospheric-aquatic linkages across different spatial scales. The examination of past changes over decadal–millennial timescales via palaeolimnology can inform understanding and prediction of future changes in C cycling. With a particular, but not exclusive, focus on northern latitudes we examine the methodological approaches of palaeolimnology, focusing on how relatively standard and well-tested techniques might be applied to address questions of relevance to the C cycle. We consider how palaeolimnology, limnology, and sedimentation studies might be linked to provide more quantitative and holistic estimates of lake C cycling and budgets. Finally, we use palaeolimnological examples to consider how changes such as terrestrial vegetation shifts, permafrost thaw, the formation of new lakes and reservoirs, hydrological modification of inorganic C processing, land use change, soil erosion and disruption to global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles might influence lake C cycling. WIREs Water 2016, 3:211–234. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1130. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Nature of Freshwater Ecosystems Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change Science of Water > Water Quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-234
Number of pages24
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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