Ecology and climate sensitivity of a groundwater-fed lake on subtropical North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah), Queensland, Australia over the last 7500 years

Publication Name

Journal of Paleolimnology


Lake sediments are important archives of past climate variability and lake responses to climate. In order to accurately infer past climates, it is necessary to understand, and account for, the ecological processes that affect the record of indicators preserved in lake sediment. This is particularly the case with respect to the concentration of carbon and nitrogen (TOC, TN, and calculated C:N), and the stable isotope composition of organic matter preserved in lake sediments. These are common, yet ambiguous, tracers of environmental change. Ideally, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions using the concentration and isotope composition of organic matter should be grounded in a detailed understanding of the sources of the organic material. This study documents the history and evolution of Blue Lake, an environmentally and culturally important oligotrophic, groundwater window lake on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia. We utilise organic matter δ13C, TOC, TN, and C:N from a 2.4 m sediment core with a basal age of 7.5 cal kyr BP, to investigate changing organic matter sources as a measure of the climate sensitivity of Blue Lake. This interpretation is supported by data from contemporary algae, aquatic and terrestrial plants, and catchment soils. We show that lake nutrient dynamics drove an increase in algal biomass at 4.2 cal kyr BP. This change coincides with a widely documented intensification of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which we infer to have influenced lake nutrient concentrations by reducing groundwater throughflow. Climatic changes resulted in marked changes in lake primary productivity, despite relatively little turnover of the lake diatom flora and catchment vegetation. This suggests that south-east Queensland dune lakes are sensitive to climate changes and helps to refine past and future palaeoclimate research using sediments from these lakes. It also indicates that increased nutrient concentrations in Blue Lake may result from projected changes in 21st Century climate.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Government



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