Paleoecological potential of phytoliths from lake sediment records from the tropical lowlands of Bolivia

Plumpton, Heather, Mayle, Francis and Whitney, Bronwen (2020) Paleoecological potential of phytoliths from lake sediment records from the tropical lowlands of Bolivia. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 275. p. 104113. ISSN 0034-6667

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Phytolith analysis is conventionally an archaeo-botanical tool used to study past human activity using material from excavations or soil pits. However, phytolith analysis also has potential as a paleoecological tool, to reconstruct vegetation changes through periods of climatic change and human influence. To study phytoliths from lake sediment alongside pollen requires an understanding of phytolith taphonomy in lakes. Theoretical models suggest phytoliths represent more local vegetation at smaller spatial scales than pollen from lake sediments, but this has not been tested empirically in the Neotropics. This paper compares pollen and phytolith assemblages from the same lake sediment surface sample, from a suite of lakes of different sizes across different vegetation types of lowland tropical Bolivia. We find three factors driving phytolith composition in lakes: taphonomy, lake size and phytolith productivity. By comparing phytolith assemblages to pollen assemblages, we find that they provide different taxonomic information and generally complement each other as paleo-vegetation proxies by filling in the taxonomic blind spots of the other. For the first time we also show empirically that pollen assemblages in lake samples represent a larger catchment area than phytolith assemblages. Our findings suggest that for vegetation reconstruction phytoliths may be best utilized alongside pollen in order to differentiate arboreal taxa as well as herbaceous taxa. Phytoliths will be particularly useful for research focused on changes in forest understorey vegetation or savannahs, and to provide local vegetation history from a lake record where pollen provides the regional vegetation history.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Phytoliths, Pollen, Taphonomy, Lake records, Tropical, South America
Subjects: F600 Geology
F700 Ocean Sciences
F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2019 10:48
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 13:02

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