Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 913–929 | Cite as

Diatom-inferred Holocene climatic and environmental changes in an unusually subsaline high Arctic nunatak pond on Ellesmere Island (Nunavut, Canada)

Original paper

Abstract

Stygge Nunatak Pond is a small, shallow, closed-basin pond situated on a nunatak in Stygge Glacier at the head of Jokel Fiord, east-central Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. Its ionic concentration is unusually high by inland Arctic standards, with specific conductivity measured at up to 1,090 μS/cm, making this site a rare example of a subsaline athalassic Arctic pond. Small, closed-basin lakes and ponds are particularly sensitive to changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation (P–E), which affect the site’s chemical, physical and biological characteristics. Such lakes and ponds therefore have the potential to serve as sensitive archives of past environmental change, which can be reconstructed using paleolimnological techniques. Diatom assemblages from two sediment cores (a short gravity core [21.5 cm] and a long core of frozen material [387 cm]) were examined so as to reconstruct regional environmental changes. Basal radiocarbon dating of the long core suggests that the pond has existed since before 10,500 cal. year BP. The diatom assemblages from both cores record similar ecological changes since approximately 2,200 cal. year BP, with a stable, coldwater assemblage dominated by Fragilaria construens var. venter. This assemblage was replaced in the early- to mid-20th century by dramatic, unprecedented expansion in periphytic taxa with more complex life forms, especially Cymbella descripta, Navicula halophila and Achnanthes minutissima. These assemblage shifts are indicative of recent warming, with a longer open-water period, expanded littoral substrates, and increased ionic concentration, as would be expected with enhanced evaporation relative to precipitation. Between ~10,500 and ~6,200 cal. year BP, the diatom assemblages underwent a shift from a near monoculture of F. construens var. venter to a more complex, epiphytic assemblage, which then reverted back to the former virtual monoculture. These shifts may provide further evidence for an early Holocene thermal maximum in this region of the Arctic, followed by Neoglacial cooling. However, interpretation of assemblages before ~6,200 cal. year BP is complicated by the fact that the sediment beneath 47 cm depth is unconsolidated and embedded within a core of solid ice, a feature that has not been reported in any other Arctic paleolimnological study to date. Superficial examination of the contact surfaces of the ice, and the fact that radiocarbon ages obtained from entrained sediment are chronologically consistent with those from the sediment above, suggest that the ice might be intrasedimental segregation ice.

Keywords

High Arctic Ellesmere Island Holocene Diatoms Climate change 

References

  1. Antoniades D, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2004) Diatom species-environment relationships and inference models from Isachsen, Ellef-Ringnes Island, Canadian High Arctic. Hydrobiologia 529:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antoniades D, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2005a) Benthic diatom autecology and inference model development from the Canadian High Arctic Archipelago. J Phycol 41:30–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Antoniades D, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2005b) Quantitative estimates of recent environmental changes in the Canadian High Arctic inferred from diatoms in lake and pond sediments. J Paleolimnol 33:349–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Battarbee RW, Jones VJ, Flower RJ, Cameron NG, Bennion H, Carvalho L, Juggins S (2001) Diatoms. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments, vol 3: terrestrial, algal, and siliceous indicators. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp 155–202Google Scholar
  5. Bigler C, Hall RI (2002) Diatoms as indicators of climatic and limnological change in Swedish Lapland: a 100-lake calibration set and its validation for paleoecological reconstructions. J Paleolimnol 27:97–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blake W Jr (1978) Coring of Holocene pond sediments at Cape Herschel, Ellesmere Island, Arctic Archipelago. Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 78-1C, pp 119–122Google Scholar
  7. Blake W Jr (1982) Coring of frozen pond sediments, east-central Ellesmere Island: a progress report, Project 750063, Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 82-C, pp 104–110Google Scholar
  8. Bouchard G, Gajewski K, Hamilton PB (2004) Freshwater diatom biogeography in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. J Biogeogr 31:1955–1973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradley RS (1990) Holocene paleoclimatology of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canadian High Arctic. Quat Sci Rev 9:365–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bradley RS (2000) Past global changes and their significance for the future. Quat Sci Rev 19:391–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danzeglocke U, Jöris O, Weninger B (2007) CalPal-2007online. http://www.calpal-online.de/
  12. Douglas MSV (1993) Diatom ecology and paleolimnology of high Arctic ponds. PhD thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada, 161Google Scholar
  13. Douglas MSV, Smol JP (1993) Freshwater diatoms from high Arctic ponds (Cape Herschel, Ellesmere Island, N.W.T.). Nova Hedwigia 57:511–552Google Scholar
  14. Douglas MSV, Smol JP (1994) Limnology of high arctic ponds (Cape Herschel, Ellesmere Island, N.W.T.). Arch Hydrobiol 131:401–434Google Scholar
  15. Douglas MSV, Smol JP (1995) Periphytic diatom assemblages from high Arctic ponds. J Phycol 31:60–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Douglas MSV, Smol JP (1999) Freshwater diatoms as indicators of environmental change in the High Arctic. In: Stoermer EF, Smol JP (eds) The diatoms: applications for the environmental and earth sciences. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 227–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2000) Eutrophication and recovery in the High Arctic: Meretta Lake (Cornwallis Island, Nunavut, Canada) revisited. Hydrobiologia 431:193–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Douglas MSV, Smol JP, Blake W Jr (1994) Marked post-18th century environmental change in high Arctic ecosystems. Science 266:416–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. French HM (1996) The periglacial environment, 2nd edn. Addison Wesley Longman Limited, Essex, UKGoogle Scholar
  20. French HM, Harry DG (1990) Observations on buried glacier ice and massive segregated ice, Western Arctic Coast, Canada. Permafrost Periglac 1:31–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frisch T (1984) Geology, Prince of Wales Mountains, District of Franklin, Northwest Territories. Geological Survey of Canada, Map 1572A, scale 1, pp 250 000Google Scholar
  22. Fritz SC, Cumming BF, Gasse F, Laird KR (2010) Diatoms as indicators of hydrologic and climatic change in saline lakes. In: Smol JP, Stoermer EF (eds) The diatoms: applications for the environmental and earth sciences, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 186–208Google Scholar
  23. Glew JR (1989) A new trigger mechanism for sediment samplers. J Paleolimnol 2:241–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grimm EC (2004) TGView version 2.0.2. Illinois State Museum, Research and Collection Center, Springfield, IL, USAGoogle Scholar
  25. Ingólfsson Ó, Lokrantz H (2003) Massive ground ice body of glacial origin at Yugorski Penninsula, Arctic Russia. Permafrost Periglac 14:199–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Juggins S (2003) C2 user guide. Software for ecological and paleoecological data analysis and visualization. University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UKGoogle Scholar
  27. Kaplan MR, Wolfe AP (2006) Spatial and temporal variability of Holocene temperature in the North Atlantic region. Quat Res 65:223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kaufman DS, Ager TA, Anderson NJ, Anderson PM, Andrews JT, Bartlein PJ, Brubaker LB, Coats LL, Cwynar LC, Duvall ML, Dyke AS, Edwards ME, Eisner WR, Gajewski K, Geirsdóttir A, Hu FS, Jennings AE, Kaplan MR, Kerwin MW, Lozhkin AV, MacDonald GM, Miller GH, Mock CJ, Oswald WW, Otto-Bliesner BL, Porinchu DF, Rühland K, Smol JP, Steig EJ, Wolfe BB (2004) Holocene thermal maximum in the western Arctic (0–180ºW). Quat Sci Rev 23:529–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Keatley BE, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2006) Early-20th century environmental changes inferred using subfossil diatoms from a small pond on Melville Island, N.W.T., Canadian high Arctic. Hydrobiologia 553:15–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lim DSS, Kwan C, Douglas MSV (2001a) Periphytic diatom assemblages from Bathurst Island, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctic: an examination of community relationships and habitat preferences. J Phycol 37:379–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lim DSS, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2001b) Diatoms and their relationship to environmental variables from lakes and ponds on Bathurst Island, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctic. Hydrobiologia 450:215–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lim DSS, Smol JP, Douglas MSV (2007) Diatom assemblages and their relationships to lakewater nitrogen levels and other limnological variables from 36 lakes and ponds on Banks Island, N.W.T., Canadian Arctic. Hydrobiologia 586:191–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lim DSS, Smol JP, Douglas MSV (2008) Recent environmental changes on Banks Island (N.W.T., Canadian Arctic) quantified using fossil diatom assemblages. J. Paleolimnol 40:385–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lotter AF, Bigler C (2000) Do diatoms in the Swiss Alps reflect the length of ice-cover? Aquat Sci 62:125–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McGowan S, Ryves DB, Anderson NJ (2003) Holocene records of effective precipitation in West Greenland. Holocene 13:239–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Michelutti N, Holtham AJ, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2003) Periphytic diatom assemblages from ultra-oligotrophic and UV transparent lakes and ponds on Victoria Island and comparisons with other diatom surveys in the Canadian High Arctic. J Phycol 39:465–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Michelutti N, Smol JP, Douglas MSV (2006) Ecological characteristics of modern diatom assemblages from Axel Heiberg Island (High Arctic Canada) and their application to paleolimnological inference models. Can J Bot 84:1695–1713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Paul CA (2008) Paleolimnological assessment of Holocene climatic and environmental change in two lakes located in different regions of the Canadian Arctic tundra. MSc. Thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada, 229Google Scholar
  39. Pienitz R, Walker IR, Zeeb BA, Smol JP, Leavitt PR (1992) Biomonitoring past salinity changes in an athalassic subarctic lake. Int J Salt Lake Res 1:91–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pienitz R, Douglas MSV, Smol JP, Huttunen P, Merilainen J (1995) Diatom, chrysophyte and protozoan distributions along a latitudinal transect in Fennoscandia. Ecography 18:429–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pienitz R, Smol JP, Last WM, Leavitt PR, Cumming BF (2000) Multi-proxy Holocene palaeoclimatic record from a saline lake in the Canadian Subarctic. Holocene 10:673–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Robinson CT, Kawecka B (2005) Benthic diatoms of an Alpine stream/lake network in Switzerland. Aquat Sci 67:492–506Google Scholar
  43. Rouse WR (1993) Northern climates. In: French HM, Slaymaker O (eds) Canada’s cold environments. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal and Kingston, Canada, pp 65–92Google Scholar
  44. Rühland KM, Smol JP, Wang X, Muir DCG (2003) Limnological characteristics of 56 lakes in the central Canadian Arctic Treeline region. J Limnol 62:9–27Google Scholar
  45. Ryves DB, McGowan S, Anderson NJ (2002) Development and evaluation of diatom-conductivity from lakes in West Greenland. Freshwater Biol 47:995–1014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith IR (2002) Diatom-based Holocene paleoenvironmental records from continental sites on northeastern Ellesmere Island, high Arctic. Can J Paleolimnol 27:9–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smol JP (1983) Paleophycology of a high arctic lake near Cape Herschel, Ellesmere Island. Can J Bot 61:2195–2204Google Scholar
  48. Smol JP (1985) The ratio of diatom frustules to chrysophycean statospores: a useful paleolimnological index. Hydrobiologia 123:199–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smol JP (1988) Paleoclimate proxy data from freshwater arctic diatoms. Verh Internat Verein Limnol 23:837–844Google Scholar
  50. Smol JP, Cumming BF (2000) Tracking long-term changes in climate using algal indicators in lake sediments. J Phycol 36:986–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Smol JP, Douglas MSV (2007a) From controversy to consensus: making the case for recent climate change in the Arctic using lake sediments. Front Ecol Environ 5:466–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Smol JP, Douglas MSV (2007b) Crossing the final ecological threshold in high Arctic ponds. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104:12395–12397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smol JP, Wolfe AP, Birks HJB, Douglas MSV, Jones VJ, Korhola A, Pienitz R, Rühland K, Sorvari S, Antoniades D, Brooks SJ, Fallu MA, Hughes M, Keatley BE, Laing TE, Michelutti N, Nazarova L, Nyman M, Paterson AM, Perren B, Quinlan R, Rautio M, Saulnier-Talbot E, Siitonen S, Solovieva N, Weckström J (2005) Climate-driven regime shifts in the biological communities of arctic lakes. Proc Natl Acad Sci 102:4397–4402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van de Vijver B, Van Kerckvoorde A, Beyens L (2003) Freshwater and terrestrial moss diatom assemblages of the Cambridge Bay area, Victoria Island (Nunavut, Canada). Nova Hedwigia 76(1–2):225–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Veres AJ, Pienitz R, Smol JP (1995) Lake water salinity and periphytic diatom succession in three Subarctic lakes, Yukon Territory, Canada. Arctic 48:63–70Google Scholar
  56. Weckström J, Korhola A, Blom T (1997) Diatoms as quantitative indicators of pH and water temperature in subArctic Fennoscandian lakes. Hydrobiologia 347:171–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Willemse NW, van Dam O, van Helvoort P-J, Dankers R, Brommer M, Schokker J, Valstar TE, de Wolf H (2004) Physical and chemical limnology of a subsaline athalassic lake in West Greenland. Hydrobiologia 524:167–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Williams PJ, Smith MW (1989) The frozen earth: fundamentals of geocryology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson SE, Cumming BF, Smol JP (1994) Diatom-salinity relationships in 111 lakes from the Interior Plateau of British Columbia, Canada: the development of diatom-based models for paleosalinity reconstructions. J Paleolimnol 12:197–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wolfe AP (1996) Spatial patterns of modern diatom distribution and multiple paleolimnological records from a small Arctic lake on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada. Can J Bot 74:435–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wolfe AP (2000) A 6500-year diatom record from southwestern Fosheim Peninsula, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. In: Garneau M, Alt BT (eds) Environmental response to climate change in the Canadian High Arctic, geological survey of Canada, Bulletin 529. Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada, pp 249–256Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL), Department of BiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations