, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 249-260

Regional assessment of long-term hypolimnetic oxygen changes in Ontario (Canada) shield lakes using subfossil chironomids

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Abstract

Subfossil chironomid assemblages were used to infer long-term water quality changes in south-central Ontario shield lakes, which are currently being impacted by anthropogenic eutrophication, acid rain, and recent climate change. Using a transfer function developed to infer average end-of-summer volume-weighted hypolimnetic oxygen (avg VWHO), a ‘top-bottom’ paleolimnological approach was used to reconstruct pre-industrial (pre-1850) deepwater oxygen conditions. Comparison with present-day (‘top’ surface sediments) chironomid-based inferences of avgVWHO results suggest that hypolimnetic oxygen levels are presently similar to natural, pre-industrial (‘bottom’ sediments) levels in most lakes. Approximately half of the study lakes recorded an increase in hypolimnetic oxygen since the 19th century. Inferred changes in avgVWHO correlate well with our results from another chironomid-based oxygen model which reconstructs the Anoxic Factor (AF). When study lakes are separated according to their hydrological status (i.e., natural versus managed), lakes with a dam at their outlet and seasonally managed lake levels had significantly different changes in avgVWHO compared to lakes with natural hydrology. Lakes with a dam at their outlet generally recorded increases in avgVWHO, while natural hydrology lakes mostly recorded declines. There was no relationship between inferred changes in avgVWHO and the density of cottage and resort development along the shorelines of lakes. Changes in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) possibly related to recent climate changes may also be affecting deepwater oxygen, however patterns of change are very subtle.