The Response of Discostella Species to Climate Change at the Experimental Lakes Area, Canada
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Global climate change is threatening both our water quality and quantity. Specifically, the influence of climate change on freshwater lakes includes decreased water availability, increased evapotranspiration, changes in nutrient availability, and shifts in species composition. Understanding the changes that are occurring to our freshwater ecosystems is imperative to understanding the full impact of climate change on both the environment and society. This thesis examines a shift in sedimentary diatom assemblages towards increased relative abundances of Discostella species, a phenomenon that has been documented across the Northern Hemisphere. One of the central tenants of this work is that it has been done at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in the boreal region of Canada, a study site that is uniquely devoid of large-scale anthropogenic disturbances. An analysis of the long-term monitoring records at the ELA show that Discostella species are primarily spring bloomers, and recent increases in their abundance is linked to changes in spring thermal conditions. To link the changes recorded in the sedimentary records of eight lakes to climate change, and assess whether Discostella species are in fact showing a response to climate change, a novel approach utilizing the theory of temporal synchrony was applied to eight paleo records. Discostella stelligera was found to be synchronous in all eight lakes studied, suggesting that a broad-scale forcing factor is influencing its abundance. Further, it was significantly correlated with annual and winter temperatures, supporting a link to changes in spring thermal conditions as a possible explanation. To assess the relative sensitivity of the study lakes, particularly in comparison to other boreal and temperate region lakes, an analysis was conducted of the timing of the first change in Discostella species. Several statistical techniques were employed and all approaches showed that the study lakes from ELA responded earlier in comparison to other lakes studied from other boreal and temperate regions (ca. 1900 vs ca. 1970), but later than Arctic and Sub-Arctic lakes. We suggest that this may be due to the lack of local disturbances at the ELA and/or the comparably small size of our study lakes.