Evidence for the preservation of technogenic tritiated organic compounds in an estuarine sedimentary environment.
Sedimentary DNA (sedDNA) has recently emerged as a new proxy for reconstructing past vegetation, but its taphonomy, source area and representation biases need better assessment. We investigated how sedDNA in recent sediments of two small Scottish lakes reflects a major vegetation change, using well-documented 20 Century plantations of exotic conifers as an experimental system. We used next-generation sequencing to barcode sedDNA retrieved from subrecent lake sediments. For comparison, pollen was analysed from the same samples. The sedDNA record contains 73 taxa (mainly genus or species), all but one of which are present in the study area. Pollen and sedDNA shared 35% of taxa, which partly reflects a difference in source area. More aquatic taxa were recorded in sedDNA, whereas taxa assumed to be of regional rather than local origin were recorded only as pollen. The chronology of the sediments and planting records are well aligned, and sedDNA of exotic conifers appears in high quantities with the establishment of plantations around the lakes. SedDNA recorded other changes in local vegetation that accompanied afforestation. There were no signs of DNA leaching in the sediments or DNA originating from pollen.