A Multi-Proxy Investigation of Ecological Changes Due to Multiple Anthropogenic Stressors in Muskoka-Haliburton, ONTARIO, Canada
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Freshwater ecological issues are increasingly being recognized within the context of multiple stressors, even though relatively little is known about the limnological and biological consequences of the interactions between various environmental impacts. Moreover, long-term monitoring data are often lacking. To help address these issues, the overall goal of this thesis was to use paleolimnological approaches to document how multiple environmental stressors have altered limnological communities in south-central Ontario lakes. During the last two centuries, Ontario lakes have been subjected to varying intensities of different environmental impacts, including increases in shoreline residential development, forest clearance and regrowth, the deposition of strong acids via the atmosphere, invasion by non-indigenous species, and climate change. I used multiple paleolimnological approaches to: 1) demonstrate how multiple natural and anthropogenic stressors have affected biological assemblages across lakes in the Muskoka-Haliburton region of south-central Ontario, and 2) reconstruct the limnological histories of four lakes from Algonquin Park that have recorded the near complete extirpation of native crayfish species. In the Muskoka-Haliburton lakes, I assessed the extent of limnological changes that have occurred during the past ~15 years by resampling lakes from an earlier survey, using identical paleolimnological methods. Limnological monitoring data document that, since 1992, the lakes have experienced declines in lakewater calcium and SO4 concentrations, while pH declined marginally; in contrast dissolved organic carbon, silica and Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen increased. Marked regional increases in planktonic diatom taxa, including Cyclotella stelligera, Asterionella formosa and Fragilaria crotonensis, occurred in many lake systems, while colonial scaled chrysophyte algae have undergone a widespread decline in favour of unicellular forms (i.e., Mallomonas spp.), driven by interactions between resource limitation and climate change. In the Algonquin Park study lakes, crustacean zooplankton remains revealed a marked decline in daphniid species with high Ca requirements, in favour of smaller Bosmina spp., while diatom and chrysophyte analysis suggest varying degrees of industrial acidification in the four study lakes. The paleolimnological data suggest that the crayfish decline may have began prior to the long-term monitoring record, likely as a result of declines in pH and lakewater Ca related to atmospheric acid deposition.