Submerged macrophytes play a central role in lake ecosystem functioning; however, their long-term dynamics are poorly understood. We have used the paleolimnological top-bottom approach to reconstruct changes in whole-lake macrophyte biomass between predisturbance and present-day conditions in 37 southern Quebec lakes. Estimates of whole-lake macrophyte biomass were produced using a diatom-based multivariate regression tree model (MRT) and modern analogue approach. Both approaches indicated an overall pattern of declining macrophyte abundance in the region. Based on MRT analysis, 80% of study lakes were classified as historically being in the macrophyte-dominated state, but now only 43% of the lakes are currently in this state. The lakes that shifted MRT group were found to have significantly (p = 0.03) greater building densities in their catchments compared with lakes that did not shift state. These results suggest that human impacts, primarily nutrient inputs and water level fluctuations, have played a role in reducing macrophyte abundance in southern Quebec lakes. Because submerged macrophyte beds help stabilize lake ecosystems and act as a phosphorus sink, a reduction in whole-lake macrophyte biomass could make lake ecosystems more susceptible to eutrophication.

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Journal Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Vermaire, J, Prairie, Y.T. (Yves T.), & Gregory-Eaves, I. (Irene). (2012). Diatom-inferred decline of macrophyte abundance in lakes of southern Quebec, Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 69(3), 511–524. doi:10.1139/F2011-169