Eutrophication, recovery and temperature in Lake Mjøsa: detecting trends with monitoring data and sediment records


Anders Hobæk, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Branch Office Bergen, Thormøhlensgt 53D, 5006 Bergen, Norway, and Department of Biology, University of Bergen, P.O. Box 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway. E-mail:


1. How climate warming may interact with other pressures on aquatic ecosystems is an important issue for research and management. We combined lake monitoring data with a palaeolimnological study to explore the combined effects of eutrophication and subsequent oligotrophication with a long-term temperature increase in epilimnetic waters. Our goals were (i) to evaluate how well sediment-based reconstructions reflect the instrumental observations, (ii) to use the palaeo-record to characterise a reference state for the lake and (iii) to explore whether data from the sediment record can aid in separating the effects of nutrient load and temperature in a large and deep lake.

2. Lake Mjøsa is a large and deep lake in south-eastern Norway. Eutrophication symptoms peaked in the 1970s, which led to extensive measures to reduce the phosphorus load. A monitoring programme has run continuously from 1972. Monitoring has documented a marked decrease in phosphorus load and algal biomass and also revealed an increase in epilimnetic temperature and extended summer stratification.

3. Records of algal pigments and diatoms were extracted from sediment cores taken from 236 m depth. The pigment record documented dramatic changes in lake production consistent with the monitoring record. The diatom record reflected well the eutrophication history of the lake and also demonstrated that the assemblage of the recent recovery stage differs from that of the pre-eutrophication period.

4. Ordination of diatom assemblages over time constrained by proxies for nutrient load and temperature indicated that the diatom assemblage correlated with both factors, which together accounted for 60% of the variation in diatom composition. No interaction was detected between these factors. The results suggest that the diatom assemblage has responded to varying nutrient loads as well as to changes in temperature and/or factors that correlate with temperature.

5. Reconstructions of algal biomass and total phosphorus content mirrored known changes through the monitoring period, although the absolute phosphorus estimates were too high relative to the instrumental record. The sediment record from Lake Mjøsa provides a baseline for lake production in terms of algal pigments and organic contents, and for the diatom assemblage composition in a pristine stage.