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Sedimentary ancient DNA from Lake Skartjorna, Svalbard: assessing the resilience of arctic flora to Holocene climate change

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Reconstructing past vegetation and species diversity from arctic lake sediments can be challenging because of low pollen and plant macrofossil concentrations. Information may be enhanced by metabarcoding of sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA). We developed a Holocene record from Lake Skartjørna, Svalbard, using sedaDNA, plant macrofossils and sediment properties, and compared it with published records. All but two genera of vascular plants identified as macrofossils in this or a previous study were identified with sedaDNA. Six additional vascular taxa were found, plus two algal and 12 bryophyte taxa, by sedaDNA analysis, which also detected more species per sample than macrofossil analysis. A shift from Salix polaris-dominated vegetation, with Koenigia islandica, Ranunculaceae and the relatively thermophilic species Arabis alpina and Betula, to Dryas octopetala-dominated vegetation ~6600–5500 cal. BP suggests a transition from moist conditions 1–2°C warmer than today to colder/drier conditions. This coincides with a decrease in runoff, inferred from core lithology, and an independent record of declining lacustrine productivity. This mid-Holocene change in terrestrial vegetation is broadly coincident with changes in records from marine sediments off the west coast of Svalbard. Over the Holocene sedaDNA records little floristic change, and it clearly shows species persisted near the lake during time intervals when they are not detected as macrofossils. The flora has shown resilience in the presence of a changing climate, and, if future warming is limited to 2°C or less, we might expect only minor floristic changes in this region. However, the Holocene record provides no analogues for greater warming.

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Alsos, I.G., Sjo gren, P., Edwards, M.E., Landvik, J.Y., Gielly, L., Forwick, M., Coissac, E., Brown, A.G., Jakobsen, L.V., Foreid, M.K. and Pedersen, M.W. (2016) Sedimentary ancient DNA from Lake Skartjorna, Svalbard: assessing the resilience of arctic flora to Holocene climate change The Holocene, 26, (4), pp. 627-642. (doi:10.1177/0959683615612563).

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Accepted/In Press date: 21 September 2015
e-pub ahead of print date: 11 November 2015
Published date: April 2016
Organisations: Geography & Environment


Local EPrints ID: 393848
ISSN: 0959-6836
PURE UUID: 09022ff9-a745-4a1d-bc4d-412f6777dea4

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Date deposited: 06 May 2016 09:44
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:05

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Author: I.G. Alsos
Author: P. Sjo gren
Author: M.E. Edwards
Author: J.Y. Landvik
Author: L. Gielly
Author: M. Forwick
Author: E. Coissac
Author: A.G. Brown
Author: L.V. Jakobsen
Author: M.K. Foreid
Author: M.W. Pedersen

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