Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 529–547

A comparison of three Eurasian chironomid–climate calibration datasets on a W–E continentality gradient and the implications for quantitative temperature reconstructions

  • Stefan Engels
  • Angela E. Self
  • Tomi P. Luoto
  • Stephen J. Brooks
  • Karin F. Helmens
Original paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10933-014-9772-8

Cite this article as:
Engels, S., Self, A.E., Luoto, T.P. et al. J Paleolimnol (2014) 51: 529. doi:10.1007/s10933-014-9772-8


Multiple regional chironomid–climate calibration datasets are available to reconstruct quantitatively July air temperatures from fossil chironomid assemblages. We examined the relationship between July air temperature and the 40 most common chironomid taxa in three independent Eurasian calibration (training) sets. The estimated temperature optimum of each chironomid taxon is systematically lower (by ~1–2 °C) in a Norwegian calibration set compared to Finnish and Russian calibration sets. This result might partly be explained by the fact that the Norwegian calibration set extends further at the cold end of the temperature gradient. A difference in continentality between the Russian sites and the European sites might also contribute to this pattern. The number of taxa that show a statistically significant unimodal response to temperature is higher in the Norwegian calibration set (34 out of 40 taxa) compared to the modern Finnish (11 of 37 taxa; 3 common taxa absent) and the Russian calibration set (20 of 40 taxa), probably due to the longer temperature gradient incorporated in the Norwegian calibration set. We applied all three calibration sets to fossil chironomid assemblages from the high-latitude study site of Sokli (northeast Finland), a site with a unique series of lacustrine deposits covering (amongst others) the Holocene, part of early MIS 3 (at ~53 ka) and MIS 5d–c (at ~110–95 ka) and with independent proxy-records for comparison. In the early Holocene and during MIS 5c, the chironomid-based temperature inferences from all three inference models had similar values. Temperature reconstructions based on the Norwegian calibration set are 2–4 °C lower for the late Holocene, early MIS 3 and MIS 5d than the inferred temperatures based on the other calibration sets. Although the lakes included in the Finnish calibration set are located closest to the site of Sokli, evaluation tests and a comparison with independent proxy data suggests that the Norwegian calibration set provides the most suitable analogues for reconstruction purposes for most of the fossil assemblages. Our results imply that when choosing a calibration set for quantitative climate reconstructions on glacial timescales, regional proximity of the fossil site may not be a sufficient basis, and the length of the temperature gradient of the calibration dataset and factors such as the continentality gradient covered by the calibration set must also be considered.


ChironomidsTemperature reconstructionContinentalityTransfer functionsGlacial timescaleNortheast Finland

Supplementary material

10933_2014_9772_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (352 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 352 kb)
10933_2014_9772_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (370 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 369 kb)
10933_2014_9772_MOESM3_ESM.doc (136 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOC 135 kb)
10933_2014_9772_MOESM4_ESM.doc (50 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOC 50 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Engels
    • 1
  • Angela E. Self
    • 2
  • Tomi P. Luoto
    • 3
  • Stephen J. Brooks
    • 2
  • Karin F. Helmens
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesNatural History MuseumLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Geosciences and GeographyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary GeologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden