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The stable isotope composition of organic and inorganic fossils in lake sediment records: Current understanding, challenges, and future directions

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van AmmerstolORCiD, Professor Andrew HendersonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2018 Elsevier Ltd This paper provides an overview of stable isotope analysis (H, C, N, O, Si) of the macro- and microscopic remains from aquatic organisms found in lake sediment records and their application in (palaeo)environmental science. Aquatic organisms, including diatoms, macrophytes, invertebrates, and fish, can produce sufficiently robust remains that preserve well as fossils and can be identified in lake sediment records. Stable isotope analyses of these remains can then provide valuable insights into habitat-specific biogeochemistry, feeding ecology, but also on climatic and hydrological changes in and around lakes. Since these analyses focus on the remains of known and identified organisms, they can provide more specific and detailed information on past ecosystem, food web and environmental changes affecting different compartments of lake ecosystems than analyses on bulk sedimentary organic matter or carbonate samples. We review applications of these types of analyses in palaeoclimatology, palaeohydrology, and palaeoecology. Interpretation of the environmental ‘signal’ provided by taxon-specific stable isotope analysis requires a thorough understanding of the ecology and phenology of the organism groups involved. Growth, metabolism, diet, feeding strategy, migration, taphonomy and several other processes can lead to isotope fractionation or otherwise influence the stable isotope signatures of the remains from aquatic organisms. This paper includes a review of the (modern) calibration, culturing and modelling studies used to quantify the extent to which these factors influence stable isotope values and provides an outlook for future research and methodological developments for the different examined fossil groups.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van Hardenbroek M, Chakraborty A, Davies KL, Harding P, Heiri O, Henderson ACG, Holmes JA, Lasher GE, Leng MJ, Panizzo VN, Roberts L, Schilder J, Trueman CN, Wooller MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Quaternary Science Reviews

Year: 2018

Volume: 196

Pages: 154-176

Print publication date: 15/09/2018

Online publication date: 09/08/2018

Acceptance date: 02/08/2018

Date deposited: 01/08/2018

ISSN (print): 0277-3791

ISSN (electronic): 1873-457X

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.08.003


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