, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 589-601,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

How does taxonomic resolution affect chironomid-based temperature reconstruction?


The resolution achievable for chironomid identifications has increased in recent years because of significant improvements in taxonomic literature. However, high taxonomic resolution requires more training for analysts. Furthermore, with greater taxonomic resolution, misidentifications and the number of rare, poorly represented taxa in chironomid calibration datasets may increase. We assessed the effects of various levels of taxonomic resolution on the performance of chironomid-based temperature inference models (transfer functions) and temperature reconstruction. A calibration dataset consisting of chironomid assemblage and temperature data from 100 lakes was examined at four levels of taxonomic detail. The coarsest taxonomic resolution primarily represented identifications to genus or suprageneric level. At the highest level of taxonomic resolution, identification to genus level was possible for 37% of taxa, and identification below genus was possible for 60% of taxa. Transfer functions were obtained using Weighted Averaging (WA) and Weighted Averaging-Partial Least Squares (WA-PLS) regression. Cross-validated performance statistics, such as the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) and the coefficient of determination (r 2) between inferred and observed values improved considerably from the lowest taxonomic resolution level (WA: RMSEP 1.91°C, r 2 0.78; WA-PLS: RMSEP 1.59°C, r 2 0.86) to the highest taxonomic resolution level (WA: RMSEP 1.66°C, r 2 0.84; WA-PLS: RMSEP 1.41°C, r 2 0.89). Reconstructed July air temperatures during the Lateglacial period based on fossil chironomid assemblages from Hijkermeer (The Netherlands) were similar for all levels of taxonomic resolution, except the coarsest level. At the coarsest taxonomic level, reconstruction failed to infer one of the known Lateglacial cold episodes in the record. Also, the difference in reconstructed values based on lowest and highest taxonomic resolutions exceeded sample-specific estimated standard errors of prediction in several instances. Our results suggest that chironomid-based transfer functions at the highest taxonomic resolution outperform models based on lower-resolution calibration data. However, transfer functions of intermediate taxonomic resolution produced results very similar to models based on high-resolution taxonomic data. In studies that include analysts with different levels of expertise, inference models based on intermediate taxonomic resolution, therefore, might provide an alternative to transfer functions of maximum taxonomic detail in order to ensure taxonomic consistency between calibration datasets and down-core records produced by different analysts.