Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 343–350

Effect of low count sums on quantitative environmental reconstructions: an example using subfossil chironomids

  • Oliver Heiri
  • André F. Lotter

DOI: 10.1023/A:1017568913302

Cite this article as:
Heiri, O. & Lotter, A.F. Journal of Paleolimnology (2001) 26: 343. doi:10.1023/A:1017568913302


The concentrations of chironomid remains in lake sediments are very variable and, therefore, chironomid stratigraphies often include samples with a low number of counts. Thus, the effect of low count sums on reconstructed temperatures is an important issue when applying chironomid‐temperature inference models. Using an existing data set, we simulated low count sums by randomly picking subsets of head capsules from surface‐sediment samples with a high number of specimens. Subsequently, a chironomid‐temperature inference model was used to assess how the inferred temperatures are affected by low counts. The simulations indicate that the variability of inferred temperatures increases progressively with decreasing count sums. At counts below 50 specimens, a further reduction in count sum can cause a disproportionate increase in the variation of inferred temperatures, whereas at higher count sums the inferences are more stable. Furthermore, low count samples may consistently infer too low or too high temperatures and, therefore, produce a systematic error in a reconstruction. Smoothing reconstructed temperatures downcore is proposed as a possible way to compensate for the high variability due to low count sums. By combining adjacent samples in a stratigraphy, to produce samples of a more reliable size, it is possible to assess if low counts cause a systematic error in inferred temperatures.

quantitative temperature reconstructionChironomidaesample sizeerror estimationpalaeolimnologysubfossils

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Heiri
    • 1
  • André F. Lotter
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Plant SciencesUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratorium voor Palaeobotanie en PalynologieUniversiteit UtrechtUtrechtNetherlands