Ancient plant DNA in lake sediments

Laura Parducci, Keith D. Bennett, Gentile Francesco Ficetola, Inger Greve Alsos, Yoshihisa Suyama, Jamie R. Wood, Mikkel Winther Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

175 Citations (Scopus)


(Table presented.). Summary: Recent advances in sequencing technologies now permit the analyses of plant DNA from fossil samples (ancient plant DNA, plant aDNA), and thus enable the molecular reconstruction of palaeofloras. Hitherto, ancient frozen soils have proved excellent in preserving DNA molecules, and have thus been the most commonly used source of plant aDNA. However, DNA from soil mainly represents taxa growing a few metres from the sampling point. Lakes have larger catchment areas and recent studies have suggested that plant aDNA from lake sediments is a more powerful tool for palaeofloristic reconstruction. Furthermore, lakes can be found globally in nearly all environments, and are therefore not limited to perennially frozen areas. Here, we review the latest approaches and methods for the study of plant aDNA from lake sediments and discuss the progress made up to the present. We argue that aDNA analyses add new and additional perspectives for the study of ancient plant populations and, in time, will provide higher taxonomic resolution and more precise estimation of abundance. Despite this, key questions and challenges remain for such plant aDNA studies. Finally, we provide guidelines on technical issues, including lake selection, and we suggest directions for future research on plant aDNA studies in lake sediments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)924-942
Number of pages19
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 1


  • ancient plant DNA (aDNA)
  • bioinformatics
  • environmental DNA (eDNA)
  • high-throughput DNA sequencing
  • lake sediments
  • metabarcoding
  • pollen
  • shotgun sequencing
  • taphonomy


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