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Paleolimnological tracers of early farming impacts on soil degradation and lakes

Applicant Dubois Nathalie
Number 160066
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Eawag
Institution of higher education Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology - EAWAG
Main discipline Other disciplines of Earth Sciences
Start/End 01.10.2015 - 30.09.2019
Approved amount 294'053.00
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Keywords (6)

land-use change; compound-specific radiocarbon; soil biomarkers; paleolimnology; organic geochemistry; soil erosion

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Au cours des derniers millénaires, l’homme est devenu le premier agent géologique, transformant entre un tiers et la moitié de la surface terrestre. Le défrichage, l’établissement de l’agriculture et la domestication du bétail ont provoqué une augmentation dramatique du taux d’érosion des sols. Dans le cadre du projet PALEOFARM, nous allons analyser des sédiments lacustres afin de lier les variations de déstabilisation des sols avec l’évolution de l’usage des sols.
Lay summary

Contenu et objectifs du travail de recherche

Notre principal objectif est de contribuer à une meilleure compréhension de l’érosion historique et préhistorique des sols causée par l’établissement de l’agriculture et son évolution. Afin de distinguer les impacts de différents types d’agriculture, nous allons analyser des carottes sédimentaires de plusieurs lacs ayant des histoires distinctes de l’occupation et des activités humaines dans leur bassin versant. Nous allons déterminer la vulnérabilité des sols aux usages anciens principalement au moyen de biomarqueurs moléculaires.

Contexte scientifique et social du projet de recherche

Les pertes par érosion de sol arable seraient désormais d’un ordre de grandeur plus élevé que leur taux de formation, représentant une sérieuse menace pour notre avenir. L’approche inédite que nous allons prendre permet une évaluation complète des usages passés et de l’état de dégradation des sols.

Les analyses isotopiques sur composés organiques individuels ouvrent de nouvelles perspectives dans la compréhension de la dynamique de la matière organique des sols. De récents développements techniques, à l’instar des datations radiocarbone sur composés spécifiques, permettent désormais l’investigation du temps de résidence de la matière organique et des effets des activités humaines sur le stockage de celle-ci dans les sols.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.05.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Roman-driven cultural eutrophication of Lake Murten, Switzerland
Haas Mischa, Baumann Franziska, Castella Daniel, Haghipour Negar, Reusch Anna, Strasser Michael, Eglinton Timothy Ian, Dubois Nathalie (2019), Roman-driven cultural eutrophication of Lake Murten, Switzerland, in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 505, 110-117.
Molecular Biomarkers of Anthropic Impacts in Natural Archives: A Review
Dubois Nathalie, Jacob Jérémy (2016), Molecular Biomarkers of Anthropic Impacts in Natural Archives: A Review, in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 4, 92.

Datasets

Roman-driven cultural eutrophication of Lake Murten, Switzerland

Author Haas, Mischa; Baumann, Franziska; Castella, Daniel; Haghipour, Negar; Reusch, Anna; Strasser, Michael; Eglinton, Timothy Ian; Dubois, Nathalie
Publication date 01.01.2019
Persistent Identifier (PID) https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.895676
Repository PANGAEA


Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Sedimentary Geology, University of Innsbruck Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Archeologistes d'Avenches Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Ion Beam Physics/ETH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
University Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Biogeochemistry/Eawag Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Biogeosciences, ETH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
AGU Fall meeting 2018 Poster Reconstructing the impact of past land-use on soil degradation using compound-specific radiocarbon dating of sedimentary leaf waxes 10.12.2018 Washington, United States of America Haas Mischa;
IPA-IAL Poster From plowing to grazing: An example of land-use relaxation and its effect on soil stabilization and the recovery of Lake Lavijärvi, Russia Karelia 18.06.2018 Stockholm, Sweden Haas Mischa;
IPA-IAL Talk given at a conference The impact of Roman land-use on Lake Murten (Switzerland) and its catchment – New insights from leaf wax radiocarbon dating 18.06.2018 Stockholm, Sweden Haas Mischa;
Swiss Geoscience Meeting Poster How politics shape agricultural landscapes: The plant wax record of Lake Lavijärvi, Russia Karelia, Swiss Geosciences Meeting 17.11.2017 Davos, Switzerland Haas Mischa;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Of Pile dwellers, Roman and Medieval Farmers – Deciphering the impact of early human land-use on Lake Murten (Switzerland) and its catchment 13.08.2017 Paris, France Haas Mischa;
Past Global Changes (PAGES) 5th Open Science Meeting Poster Molecular biomarkers of anthropic impacts in natural archives 09.05.2017 Zaragoza, Spain Dubois Nathalie;
Past Global Changes (PAGES) 5th Open Science Meeting Poster How politics shape agricultural landscapes: The plant wax record of Lake Lavijärvi, Russia Karelia, 09.05.2017 Zaragoza, Spain Haas Mischa;
Past Global Changes (PAGES) 5th Open Science Meeting Poster Of Pile dwellers, Roman and Medieval Farmers – Early human impact on Lake Murten, Switzerland, 09.05.2017 Zaragoza, Spain Haas Mischa;
CH-QUAT meeting Poster The legacy of Roman land-use - Impact of early agriculture on soil degradation in the catchment of Lake Murten, Switzerland 01.04.2017 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Haas Mischa;
Swiss Geoscience Meeting Talk given at a conference Molecular biomarkers of anthropic impacts in natural archives 18.11.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Dubois Nathalie;
Swiss Geoscience Meeting Talk given at a conference Historical evolution of human land-use in the catchment of Lake Murten 18.11.2016 Geneva, Switzerland Haas Mischa;
Dynamics of socio-ecosystems on a changing Earth: sustainability or collapse? Talk given at a conference Molecular biomarkers of anthropic impacts in natural archives 30.05.2016 Chambéry, France Dubois Nathalie;
SwissSed Poster Impact and historical evolution of human land-use in the catchment of Lake Murten 27.02.2016 Fribourg, Switzerland Haas Mischa;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Infotag Eawag Talk 06.09.2016 Luzern, Switzerland Dubois Nathalie;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media news Engineering sciences Natural Sciences Earth and Environment Medicine and Life Sciences Innov my science German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Ancient Romans Polluted Their Lakes Just Like We Do Today Eos, Earth & Space Science News International 2018
Media relations: radio, television Quand les romains polluaient nos lacs RTS - CQFD Western Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Römer verschmutzten Murtensee Schweizer Bauer German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Schon die alten Römer waren Umweltverschmutzer Eawag News International German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Sedimente im Murtensee: Die Römer waren Umweltverschmutzer Baublatt German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Drei Seen und die Geschichte der Landwirtschaft. Auf Spurensuche der fruhen Bauern Geopanorama, Geosciences Platform of the Swiss Academy of Sciences Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2016

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
163782 MACRO: Molecular traces of Anthropogenic and Climatic impact in Remote Oceania 01.10.2016 SNSF Professorships
143023 Molecular and radiocarbon sentinels of soil organic matter vulnerability 01.01.2013 NRP 68 Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource
143026 How vulnerable is Swiss soil organic matter to climate and land use changes? 01.06.2013 NRP 68 Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource

Abstract

The largest human alteration of the natural environment occurred centuries to millennia ago, with the clearing of forests to establish cropland and pasture, and the exploitation of forests for firewood and construction materials. As a result of these human activities, soil erosion experienced a sharp increase. Although the sustainable use of soil is a pressing societal issue, little is known about the history of human impact on soil and pre-anthropogenic conditions. In this project, we propose to analyze lake sediments to reconstruct changes in soil erosion and soil carbon dynamics with the evolution of land-use.In order to distinguish how different types of farming impact soil and lake ecosystems, we will recover and analyze sediment cores from four lakes with contrasting histories of human occupation and land-use in their catchment. The first site, in Greenland, experienced human occupation for only a limited time (985-1450 AD), with almost exclusively pastoral activities in its watershed. Land abandonment during the following 500 yr - until the recent re-establishment of modern farming - led to a progressive re-naturalization of the environment. The second site, in the Republic of Karelia (NW Russia), experienced an unconventional shift from cropland to pasture in 1940 AD, as the former Finnish territory was ceded back to the Soviet Union. The third site, Lake Murten in Switzerland, was chosen as representative of the traditional long-term evolution into intensive farming, i.e. from forest to pasture to agriculture. The last site, Lake Joux in the Swiss Jura Mountain, is currently under investigation as part of a pilot study and experienced a more tardive human occupation.Key to this research, we will use an innovative approach to quantify soil degradation and link it to farming practices: We will analyze lacustrine sediments to reconstruct the soil residence time of organic molecules originating from terrestrial plants and soil bacteria. We will use radiocarbon dating to assess the age differences between rapidly deposited plant debris and these fossil molecules (biomarkers) that are retained in the soil system for some time. This information will increase our understanding of the extent of human disturbance on soil carbon dynamics, and provide tools to assess measures taken for the sustainable use of soils. Our hypothesis is that the development of modern practices such as tillage affected deeper soils than ever before. The flushing of these old soils into lake repositories should be reflected by a significant ageing of the terrestrial biomarkers relative to the “fresh” plant debris deposited in the same sediment layers. However, it may be possible that early deforestation or grazing played the most significant role in the soil destabilization process. This study will allow discriminating the relative impact of these different land-use activities.The horizons of interest will be detected by changes in sedimentological and geochemical characteristics in the sediment cores. The vegetation changes that accompany the evolution of agricultural practices will be determined from pollen assemblage. In conclusion, this study will emphasize the relevance of paleolimnological approaches to assess not only the reference ecological conditions for modern lakes but also the reference state for soil.
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