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The application of palaeolimnology to evidence-based lake management and conservation: examples from UK lakes


C. D. Sayer, Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of Geography, University College London, Pearson Building, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK. E-mail:


  1. To help meet the requirements of water legislation, palaeolimnology has been widely used to establish ‘reference conditions’ and restoration targets for lakes. However, its potential for assessing the necessity and appropriateness of different lake management activities has been less publicized.
  2. With reference to selected case studies covering consultancy projects commissioned by UK conservation agencies, this study highlights the important applied role of palaeolimnology. Using varying combinations of diatom, plant macrofossil and cladoceran analysis, the degree, timing and in many cases the likely drivers of ecological change were inferred for several lake sites.
  3. From this basis advice was given on a range of lake management issues, including the need for sediment removal to combat eutrophication and/or the necessity of other nutrient reduction measures (Case study 1), the depth of sediment to be removed to maximize restoration potential through exposure of dormant banks of characean oospores (Case study 2), the requirement for fish management (Case study 3), and advice regarding fish farm expansion and licensing (Case study 4). Where possible management responses to the recommendations are outlined including any major outcomes.
  4. All case studies illustrate the advantages, for lake management and conservation decision-making, of placing current lake ecological conditions in the context of long-term change.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.