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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-6
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-6
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 31 Jan 2019

Research article | 31 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

A conservation palaeobiological approach to assess faunal response of threatened biota under natural and anthropogenic environmental change

Sabrina van de Velde1,*, Elisabeth L. Jorissen2,*, Thomas A. Neubauer1,3, Silviu Radan4, Ana Bianca Pavel4, Marius Stoica5, Christiaan G. C. Van Baak6, Alberto Martínez Gándara7, Luis Popa7, Henko de Stigter8,2, Hemmo A. Abels9, Wout Krijgsman2, and Frank P. Wesselingh1 Sabrina van de Velde et al.
  • 1Naturalis Biodiversity Center, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands
  • 2Palaeomagnetic Laboratory "Fort Hoofddijk", Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Budapestlaan 17, 3584 CD Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 3Department of Animal Ecology & Systematics, Justus Liebig University, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26–32 IFZ, 35392 Giessen, Germany
  • 4National Institute of Marine Geology and Geoecology (GeoEcoMar), 23–25 Dimitrie Onciul St., 024053 Bucharest, Romania
  • 5Department of Geology, Faculty of Geology and Geophysics, University of Bucharest, Bălcescu Bd. 1, 010041 Bucharest, Romania
  • 6CASP, West Building, Madingley Rise, Madingley Road, CB3 0UD, Cambridge, UK
  • 7Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History, Sos. Kiseleff Nr. 1, 011341 Bucharest, Romania
  • 8NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Ocean Systems, 1790 AB Den Burg, the Netherlands
  • 9Department of Geosciences and Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Stevinweg 1, 2628 CN Delft, the Netherlands
  • *S. van de Velde and E. L. Jorissen should be considered joint first author.

Abstract. Palaeoecological records are required to test ecological hypotheses necessary for conservation strategies as short-term observations can be insufficiently to capture natural variability and identify drivers of biotic change. Here, we demonstrate the importance of an integrated conservation palaeobiology approach to make validated decisions for conservation and mitigating action. Our model system is the Razim-Sinoie Lake complex (RSL) in the Danube Delta (Black Sea coast, Romania), a dynamic coastal lake system hosting unique Pontocaspian mollusc species that are now severely under threat. The Pontocaspians refer to an endemic species group that evolved in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea basins under reduced salinity settings over the past few million years. The natural, pre-industrial RSL contained a salinity gradient from fresh to mesohaline (18 ppm), until human interventions reduced the inflow of mesohaline Black Sea water into the lake system. We reconstruct the evolution of the RSL over the past 2000 years from integrated sedimentary facies and faunal analyses based on 11 age-dated sediment cores and investigate the response of mollusc species and communities to those past environmental changes. Three species associations (marine, Pontocaspian, freshwater) exist and their spatiotemporal shifts through the system are documented. Variable salinity gradients developed, with marine settings (and faunas) dominating in the southern part of the system and freshwater conditions (and faunas) in the northern and western parts. Pontocaspian species have mostly occurred in the centre of the RSL within the marine–freshwater salinity gradient. Today, freshwater species dominate the entire system, and only a single Pontocaspian species (Monodacna colorata) is found alive. We show that the human-induced reduced marine influence in the system has been a major driver of the decline of the endemic Pontocaspian biota. It urges for improved conservation actions by re-establishing a salinity gradient in the lake system to preserve these unique species.

Sabrina van de Velde et al.
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