Softwater lakes provide a habitat for isoetid macrophytes, which are vulnerable to eutrophication and acidification. In Ireland many catchments of such lakes are currently planted with exotic conifers. Management of these plantations can lead to increases in lake water phosphorus (P), threatening the survival of softwater macrophytes. Regional increases of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) may also have a detrimental effect on aquatic plants. The persistence of the macrophyte flora in lakes with managed forested catchments in Northern Ireland was investigated by comparing the macrophyte community of 12 lakes surveyed in 2007 with a 1988-1990 survey. Contemporary data were compared with plant macrofossil records pre-dating 1900. Macrophyte abundance generally remained unchanged but Littorella uniflora (L.) Asch. and Fontinalis antipyretica Hedw. showed a significant decline since 1988-1990. Water colour, alkalinity, silica, total P, total soluble P and soluble reactive P increased; conductivity and chlorophyll a decreased in the lakes over time. These changes coincided with increased pH in precipitation and potentially elevated exports of DOC to water. Conifer plantation management appeared to have less impact on the macrophyte flora than expected from the elevated lake P concentrations. It appears that a large regional increase in DOC is also a threat to macrophyte abundance and diversity in these upland catchments and conservation efforts may be more successful in lakes with longer water residence times.
- Programområde 5: Natur og klima