Can pollution bias peatland paleoclimate reconstruction?


Payne R, Mitchell EAD, Nguyen-Viet H & Gilbert D (2012) Can pollution bias peatland paleoclimate reconstruction?. Quaternary Research, 78 (2), pp. 170-173.

Peatland testate amoebae are widely used to reconstruct paleohydrological/climatic changes, but many species are also known to respond to pollutants. Peatlands around the world have been exposed to anthropogenic and intermittent natural pollution through the late Holocene. This raises the question: can pollution lead to changes in the testate amoeba paleoecological record that could be erroneously interpreted as a climatic change? To address this issue we applied testate amoeba transfer functions to the results of experiments adding pollutants (N, P, S, Pb, O3) to peatlands and similar ecosystems. We found a significant effect in only one case, an experiment in which N and P were added, suggesting that pollution-induced biases are limited. However, we caution researchers to be aware of this possibility when interpreting paleoecological records. Studies characterising the paleoecological response to pollution allow pollution impacts to be tracked and distinguished from climate change.

Climate; Holocene; Testate amoebae; Nitrogen; Phosphorus; Ozone; Sulphur; Lead; Transfer function; Biological proxy

Quaternary Research: Volume 78, Issue 2

Publication date30/09/2012