Due to methodological challenges there are only a few studies that focus on macrophyte dynamics in large lakes despite their notable role in a lake’s ecosystem functioning. This study investigates composition and productivity changes of the submerged vegetation of Lake Karakul, Pamir Mountains (Tajikistan), using sedimentary ancient DNA metabarcoding and elemental (C/N) and isotopic (δ13C, δ15N) measurements of Stuckenia cf. pamirica (Baagøe) Z. Kaplan (Potamogetonaceae) leaf remains. No Stuckenia cf. pamirica leaf remains were found for 28.7–26.1 cal ka BP, when both Potamogetonaceae and Chara (L.) DNA sequences were recorded, suggesting sparse submerged vegetation at the coring site. This agrees with the inference of a deep lake reached using geochemical proxies. From 26.1 to 17.5 cal ka BP a few macrophyte remains and high numbers of Potamogetonaceae sequences were recovered: lake level was probably low, as suggested by other studies on the lake. Another phase of increased numbers of Chara sequences and the absence of Stuckenia cf. pamirica leaf remains was found between 17.5 and 12.2 cal ka BP, which coincides with a lake-level transgression at Lake Karakul as indicated by paleo-shoreline investigations. Analyses of macrophyte remains reveal intermediate paleo-productivity from 6.9 cal ka BP and high paleo-productivity from 2.2 cal ka BP onwards. From comparisons with other studies, we suggest that lake-level changes are the main driver for the submerged vegetation composition and productivity at the coring site in Lake Karakul and underline our conclusions by depicting the present-day distribution of Stuckenia cf. pamirica and Chara within the lake.
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- Arid central Asia
- Submerged vegetation composition