Diatoms in sediments of perennially ice-covered Lake Hoare, and implications for interpreting lake history in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica

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Diatom assemblages in surficial sediments, sediment cores, sediment traps, and inflowing streams of perennially ice-covered Lake Hore, South Victorialand, Antarctica were examined to determine the distribution of diatom taxa, and to ascertain if diatom species composition has changed over time. Lake Hoare is a closed-basin lake with an area of 1.8 km2, maximum depth of 34 m, and mean depth of 14 m, although lake level has been rising at a rate of 0.09 m yr-1 in recent decades. The lake has an unusual regime of sediment deposition: coarse grained sediments accumulate on the ice surface and are deposited episodically on the lake bottom. Benthic microbial mats are covered in situ by the coarse episodic deposits, and the new surfaces are recolonized. Ice cover prevents wind-induced mixing, creating the unique depositional environment in which sediment cores record the history of a particular site, rather than a lake=wide integration. Shallow-water (<1 m) diatom assemblages (Stauroneis anceps, Navicula molesta, Diadesmis contenta var. parallela, Navicula peraustralis) were distinct from mid-depth (4-16 m) assemblages (Diadesmis contenta, Luticola muticopsis fo. reducta, Stauroneis anceps, Diadesmis contenta var. parallela, Luticola murrayi) and deep-water (2-31 m) assemblages (Luticola murrayi, Luticola muticopsis fo. reducta, Navicula molesta. Analysis of a sediment core (30 cm long, from 11 m water depth) from Lake Hoare revealed two abrupt changes in diatom assemblages. The upper section of the sediment core contained the greatest biomass of benthic microbial mat, as well as the greatest total abundance and diversity of diatoms. Relative abundances of diatoms in this section are similar to the surficial samples from mid-depths. An intermediate zone contained less organic material and lower densities of diatoms. The bottom section of core contained the least amount of microbial mat and organic material, and the lowest density of diatoms. The dominant process influencing species composition and abundance of diatom assemblages in the benthic microbial mats is episodic deposition of coarse sediment from the ice surface.

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Journal of Paleolimnology

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