, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 195-215

Modelling diatom responses to climate induced fluctuations in the moisture balance in continental Antarctic lakes

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Abstract

The water chemistry of lake systems on the edge of the Antarctic continent responds quickly to changes in the moisture balance. This is expressed as increasing salinity and decreasing lake water level during dry periods, and the opposite during wet periods. The diatom composition of the lakes also changes with these fluctuations in salinity and lake water depth. This is important, as their siliceous remains become incorporated into lake sediments and can provide long-term records of past salinity using transfer functions. In order to develop transfer functions, diatoms and water chemistry data were inter-calibrated from five different East Antarctic oases, namely the Larsemann Hills, the Bølingen Islands, the Vestfold Hills, the Rauer Islands and the Windmill Islands. Results indicate that salinity is the most important environmental variable explaining the variance in the diatom flora in East Antarctic lakes. In oligo- saline lakes the variance is mainly explained by lake water depth. This dataset was used to construct a weighted averaging transfer function for salinity in order to infer historical changes in the moisture balance. This model has a jack-knifed r2 of 0.83 and a RMSEP of 0.31. The disadvantage of this transfer function is that salinity changes in oligo-saline lakes are reconstructed inaccurately due to the ‘edge effect’ and due to the low species turnover along the salinity gradient at its lower end. In order to infer changes in the moisture balance in these lakes, a second transfer function using weighted averaging partial least squares (with two components) for depth was constructed. This model has a jack-knifed r2 of 0.76 and a RMSEP of 0.22. Both transfer functions can be used to infer climate driven changes in the moisture balance in lake sediment cores from oligo-, hypo-, meso- and hyper-saline lakes in East Antarctic oases between 102–75°E. The transfer function for lake water depth is promising to track trends in the moisture balance of small freshwater lakes, where changes in shallow and deep-water sediments are readily reflected in changing diatom composition.