Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 477–491 | Cite as

A chironomid-based salinity inference model from lakes on the Tibetan Plateau

  • Enlou ZhangEmail author
  • Richard Jones
  • Alan Bedford
  • Peter Langdon
  • Hongqu Tang
Original Paper


Previous studies have shown chironomids to be excellent indicators of environmental change and training sets have been developed in order to allow these changes to be reconstructed quantitatively from subfossil sequences. Here we present the results of an investigation into the relationships between surface sediment subfossil chironomid distribution and lake environmental variables from 42 lakes on the Tibetan Plateau. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) revealed that of the 11 measured environmental variables, salinity (measured as total dissolved solids TDS) was most important, accounting for 10.5% of the variance in the chironomid data. This variable was significant enough to allow the development of quantitative inference models. A range of TDS inference models were developed using Weighted Averaging (WA), Partial Least Squares (PLS), Weighted Averaging–Partial Least Squares (WA–PLS), Maximum Likelihood (ML), Modern Analogues Technique (MAT) and Modern Analogues Techniques weighted by similarity (WMAT). Evaluation of the site data indicated that four lakes were major outliers, and after omitting these from the training set the models produced jack-knifed coefficients of determination (r 2) between 0.60 and 0.80, and root-mean-squared errors of prediction (RMSEP) between 0.29 and 0.44 log10 TDS. The best performing model was the two-component WA–PLS model with r 2 jack = 0.80 and RMSEPjack = 0.29 log10 TDS. The model results were similar to other chironomid-salinity models developed in different regions, and they also showed similar ecological groupings along the salinity gradient with respect to freshwater/salinity thresholds and community diversity. These results therefore indicate that similar processes may be controlling chironomid distribution across salinity gradients irrespective of biogeographical constraints. The performance of the transfer functions illustrates that chironomid assemblages from the Tibetan Plateau lakes are clearly sensitive indicators of salinity. The models will therefore allow the quantification of long-term records of past water salinity for lacustrine sites across the Tibetan Plateau, which has important implications for future hydrological research in the region.


Chironomids Hydrological balance Lakes Tibetan Plateau Transfer functions Total Dissolved Salts (TDS). 



We gratefully acknowledge Prof. Xiangdong Yang for the samples and providing the chemistry data as well as constructive suggestions regarding this paper. Prof. Ji Shen, Prof. John Dearing, Prof. Wang Sumin, Dr. Enfeng Liu, Mr. Xuhui Dong, Dr. Barbara Lang, Prof. Houyuan Lü and Prof. Xinhua Wang, are also acknowledged for their help during the preparation of this paper. Prof. Ian Walker is acknowledged for providing references and Bob Smith of the Southampton University Geography Cartographic Department is thanked for preparing the figures. We are very grateful to Drs Hilde Eggermont and Markus Heinrichs whose comments greatly improved the manuscript. This study is supported by the State Key Basic Research and Development Plan of China (2005CB422002), NSFC (Grant No.:40402015), and the Knowledge Innovation Program of the CAS (KZCX3-SW-339).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enlou Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Richard Jones
    • 2
  • Alan Bedford
    • 3
  • Peter Langdon
    • 4
  • Hongqu Tang
    • 5
  1. 1.Nanjing Institute of Geography and LimnologyChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of ExeterExeterEngland
  3. 3.Natural Geographical and Applied SciencesEdge Hill CollegeOrmskirkEngland
  4. 4.Palaeoecology Laboratory (PLUS), School of GeographyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonEngland
  5. 5.School of BiologyNankai UniversityTianjinChina

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