Sedimentary midges as paleoindicators of deep-water oxygen conditions across a broad trophic gradient in Boreal lakes
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Cultural eutrophication, the addition of excess nutrients to an aquatic system, is a significant water quality concern that often promotes excess algal growth and deep-water oxygen depletion. Deep-water oxygen also influences internal nutrient loading and is an important parameter used to assess cold-water fish habitat, though long-term data are often unavailable. Chironomid (Diptera: Chironomidae) assemblages have been shown to change with deep-water oxygen concentrations and can therefore be used to reconstruct these missing data sets. This thesis used paleolimnological techniques to analyze inferred whole-lake primary production, sedimentary chironomid assemblages, and inferred volume-weighted hypolimnetic oxygen to determine how cold-water fish habitat has changed through time. I will also examine whether biological recovery after nutrient-targeting remediation was introduced was evident in sedimentary chironomid assemblages. I focused on two lakes with increasing inferred whole-lake primary production (Muskrat and Stoco lakes, Ontario) and one lake with decreasing inferred primary production (Lac Duhamel, near Mont Tremblant, Québec) over time. The majority of change in response to elevated inferred whole-lake primary production is evident in littoral taxa and head capsule concentrations, though oxy-conforming profundal taxa (e.g. Micropsectra) did respond to increased whole-lake primary production. Overall, deep-water oxygen recovery after nutrient-targeting remediation was not evident in the sedimentary chironomid assemblages and that there were generally only subtle responses to elevated whole-lake primary production. Many of our lakes had historically low deep-water oxygen concentrations that were suboptimal for cold-water fish throughout their sedimentary records, with two lakes experiencing modest declines after there were increases in whole-lake primary production. These paleolimnological data can be used to set realistic mitigation targets for deep-water oxygen conditions and cold-water fish habitat restoration.