Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 56, Issue 2–3, pp 153–172 | Cite as

Tracking the long-term responses of diatoms and cladocerans to climate warming and human influences across lakes of the Ring of Fire in the Far North of Ontario, Canada

  • Kathryn E. Hargan
  • Clare Nelligan
  • Adam Jeziorski
  • Kathleen M. Rühland
  • Andrew M. Paterson
  • Wendel Keller
  • John P. Smol
Original paper


The extensive peatlands and lakes of the Far North of Ontario warrant committed scientific attention given their status as a significant carbon sink. Economic interest in this region has recently increased due to the discovery of vast mineral deposits (mainly chromite and nickel) known as the “Ring of Fire”. Mineral exploration and infrastructure planning are underway, but environmental monitoring is only beginning. Detailed baseline ecological information is required to assess the impacts of future resource extraction within the context of multiple environmental stressors (including recent regional climate warming). Here we use sediment cores from two relatively deep lakes (Zmax ~ 10 m) and two shallow lakes (Zmax ~ 2 m), all located in the vicinity of the Ring of Fire, to examine biotic responses to warming prior to the commencement of mining activities. Our data show that, over the past ~150 years, diatom and cladoceran sedimentary assemblages have transitioned from dominance by littoral/benthic forms to greater abundances of planktonic cladoceran (an increase of ~3 to 34 %) and diatom taxa (an increase of ~3 to 22 %). Increased relative abundances of planktonic taxa are consistent with warming-induced changes in lake properties including longer ice-free periods and increased production by planktonic algae. The response of diatom assemblages in shallow lakes to warming preceded the deeper lakes by ~45 to 60 years, and substantial increases in aquatic production (~4 to 15 times higher than in sediments deposited prior to 1900) were observed in the shallow lakes, in agreement with previous analyses demonstrating the heightened sensitivity of shallow systems to climate warming. These data provide important information necessary to distinguish potential ecological impacts related to resource extraction from natural variation and the ongoing responses to regional climate warming.


The Far North of Ontario Ring of Fire Climate change Diatoms Cladocerans 

Supplementary material

10933_2016_9901_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (14 kb)
ESM 1Diatom species and their authorities, which form each diatom species complex in Figure 4a-d are listed. (XLSX 13 kb)


  1. Adamczuk M (2014) Niche separation by littoral–benthic Chydoridae (Cladocera, Crustacea) in a deep lake—potential drivers of their distribution and role in littoral–pelagic coupling. J Limnol 73:490–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adrian R, O’Reilly CM, Zagarese H, Baines SB, Hessen DO, Keller W, Livingstone DM, Sommaruga R, Straile D, Van Donk E, Weyhenmeyer GA, Winder M (2009) Lakes as sentinels of climate change. Limnol Oceanogr 54:2283–2297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Antoniades D, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2005) 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. Appleby PG (2001) Chronostratigraphic techniques in recent sediments. In: Last WM, Smol JP (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments. Volume 1: basin analysis, coring, and chronological techniques, vol 1. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 171–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 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. Volume 3: terrestrial, algal, and siliceous indicators, vol 3. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 155–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Battarbee RW, Anderson NJ, Bennion H, Simpson GL (2012) Combining limnological and palaeolimnological data to disentangle the effects of nutrient pollution and climate change on lake ecosystems: problems and potential. Freshw Biol 57:2091–2106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bennett KD (1996) Determination of the number of zones in a biostratigraphical sequence. New Phytol 132:155–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bennion H, Sayer CD, Tibby J, Carrick HJ (2010) Diatoms as indicators of environmental change in shallow lakes. In: Smol JP, Stoermer EF (eds) The diatoms: applications for the environmental and earth sciences, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 152–173Google Scholar
  9. Binford MW (1990) Calculation and uncertainty analysis of 210Pb dates for PIRLA project lake sediment cores. J Paleolimnol 3:253–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bouchard F, Turner KW, MacDonald LA, Deakin C, White H, Farquharson N, Medeiros AS, Wolfe BB, Hall RI, Pienitz R, Edwards TWD (2013) Vulnerability of shallow subarctic lakes to evaporate and desiccate when snowmelt runoff is low. Geophys Res Lett 40:6112–6117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brucet S, Boix D, Quintana XD, Jensen E, Nathansen LW, Trochine C, Meerhoff M, Gascon S, Jeppesen E (2010) Factors influencing zooplankton size structure at contrasting temperatures in coastal shallow lakes: implications for effects of climate change. Limnol Oceanogr 55:1697–1711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Camburn KE, Charles DF (2000) Diatoms of low alkalinity lakes in the Northeastern United States. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Scientific Publications, Philadelphia, p 152Google Scholar
  13. Catalan J, Pla-Rabés S, Wolfe AP, Smol JP, Rühland KM, Anderson NJ, Kopáček J, Stuchlík E, Schmidt R, Koinig KA, Camarero L, Flower RJ, Heiri O, Kamenik C, Leavitt PR, Psenner R, Renberg I (2013) Global change revealed by palaeolimnological records from remote lakes: a review. J Paleolimnol 49:513–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chen G, Selbie DT, Griffiths K, Sweetman JN, Botrel M, Taranu ZE, Knops S, Bondy J, Michelutti M, Smol JP, Gregory-Eaves I (2014) Proximity to ice fields and lake depth as modulators of paleoclimate records: a regional study from southwest Yukon, Canada. J Paleolimnol 52:185–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cox ET (1978) Counts and measurements of Ontario lakes: watershed unit summaries based on maps of various scales by watershed unit by watershed unit. Ontario Ministry of National Research Rep, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  16. Crins WJ, Gray PA, Uhlig PWC, Wester MC (2009) The ecosystems of Ontario, Part 1: ecozones and ecoregions. Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough Ontario, Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment, SIB TER IMA TR-01Google Scholar
  17. de Bernardi R, Giussani G, Manca M (1987) Cladocera: predators and prey. Hydrobiologia 145:225–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dixit AS, Dixit SS, Smol JP (1992) Long-term trends in lake water pH and metal concentrations inferred from diatoms and chrysophytes in three lakes near Sudbury, Ontario. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 49(S1):17–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dyer RD, Burke HE (2012) Preliminary results from the McFaulds Lake (“Ring of Fire”) area lake sediment geochemistry pilot study, northern Ontario. Ontario Geological Survey, Open File Report 6269Google Scholar
  20. Far North Science Advisory Panel (Ont.) (2010) Science for a changing Far North. The report of the Far North Science Advisory Panel. Far North Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural ResourcesGoogle Scholar
  21. Finkelstein SA, Gajewski K (2008) Responses of fragilarioid-dominated diatom assemblages in a small Arctic lake to Holocene climatic changes, Russell Island, Nunavut, Canada. J Paleolimnol 40:1079–1095Google Scholar
  22. Friel CE, Finkelstein SA, Davis AM (2014) Relative importance of hydrological and climatic controls on Holocene paleoenvironments inferred using diatom and pollen records from a lake in the central Hudson Bay Lowlands, Canada. Holocene 24:295–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Glew JR (1988) A portable extruding device for close interval sectioning of unconsolidated core samples. J Paleolimnol 1:235–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Glew JR (1989) A new trigger mechanism for sediment samplers. J Paleolimnol 2:241–243. doi:10.1007/BF00195474 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Glew JR, Smol JP (2016) A push corer developed for retrieving high-resolution sediment cores from shallow waters. J Paleolimnol 56:67–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gough WA, Cornwell AR, Tsuji LJS (2004) Trends in seasonal sea ice duration in southwestern Hudson Bay. Arctic 57:299–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greenaway CM, Paterson AM, Keller W, Smol JP (2012) Dramatic diatom species assemblage responses in lakes recovering from acidification and metal contamination near Wawa, Ontario, Canada: a paleolimnological perspective. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 69:656–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grimm EC (1987) CONISS: A FORTRAN 77 program for stratigraphically constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental sum of squares. Comput Geosci 13:13–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gunn J, Snucins E (2010) Brook charr mortalities during extreme temperature events in Sutton River, Hudson Bay Lowlands, Canada. Hydrobiologia 650:79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hjartarson J, McGuinty L, Boutilier S, Marjernikova E (2014) Beneath the surface: uncovering the economic potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire. Ontario Chamber of CommerceGoogle Scholar
  31. Hochheim KP, Barber DG (2014) An update on the ice climatology of the Hudson Bay system. Arct Antarct Alp Res 46:66–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hochheim K, Barber DG, Lukovich JV (2010) Changing sea ice conditions in Hudson Bay, 1980–2005. In: Ferguson SH, Loseto LL, Mallory ML (eds) A little less Arctic. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 39–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ingram RG, Girard RE, Paterson AM, Sutey P, Evans D, Xu R, Rusak J, Thomson C, Masters C (2013) Lake sampling methods. Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Dorset Environmental Science Centre, Dorset, p 93Google Scholar
  34. Jeppesen E, Meerhoff M, Davidson TA, Trolle D, Søndergaard M, Lauridsen TL, Beklioğlu M, Brucet S, Volta P, González-Bergonzoni I, Nielsen A (2014) Climate change impacts on lakes: an integrated ecological perspective base on a multi-faceted approach, with special focus on shallow lakes. J Limnol 73:84–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jeziorski A, Keller B, Dyer RD, Paterson AM, Smol JP (2015) Differences among modern-day and historical cladoceran communities from the “Ring of Fire” lake region of northern Ontario: Identifying responses to climate warming. Fundam Appl Limnol 186:203–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kattel GR, Battarbee RW, Mackay AW, Birks HJB (2008) Recent ecological change in a remote Scottish mountain loch: an evaluation of a Cladocera-based temperature transfer-function. Palaeogr Palaeoclim Palaeoecol 259:51–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Keatley BE, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2008) Prolonged ice cover dampens diatom community responses to recent climatic change in high Arctic lakes. Arct Antarct Alp Res 40:364–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Keatley BE, Douglas MSV, Blais JM, Mallory ML, Smol JP (2009) Impacts of seabird-derived nutrients on water quality and diatom assemblages from Cape Vera, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic. Hydrobiologia 621:191–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Korhola A, Rautio M (2001) 2. Cladocera and other branchiopod crustaceans. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments. Volume 4: zoological indicators. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 4–41Google Scholar
  40. Korosi JB, Smol JP (2012a) An illustrated guide to the identification of cladoceran subfossils from lake sediments in northeastern North America: part 1—the Daphniidae, Leptodoridae, Bosminidae, Polyphemidae, Holopedidae, Sididae, and Macrothricidae. J Paleolimnol 48:571–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Korosi JB, Smol JP (2012b) An illustrated guide to the identification of cladoceran subfossils from lake sediments in northeastern North America: part 2—the Chydoridae. J Paleolimnol 48:587–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Korosi JB, Paterson AM, DeSellas AM, Smol JP (2010) A comparison of pre-industrial and present-day changes in Bosmina and Daphnia size structure from soft-water Ontario lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 67:754–762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Krammer K, Lange-Bertalot H (1986–1991) Bacillariophyceae. In: Ettl H, Gerloff J, Heynig H, Mollenhauer D (eds) Süßwasserflora von Mitteleuropa, Volume 2 (1–4). Gustav Fischer Verlag, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  44. Kurek J, Korosi JB, Jeziorski A, Smol JP (2010) Establishing reliable minimum count sizes for cladoceran subfossils sampled from lake sediments. J Paleolimnol 44:603–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Labaj AL, Kurek J, Jeziorski A, Smol JP (2014) Elevated metal concentrations inhibit biological recovery of Cladocera in previously acidified boreal lakes. Freshw Biol 60:347–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Long J (2010) Treaty No. 9: making the agreement to share the land in Far Northern Ontario in 1905. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Kingston, p 624Google Scholar
  47. Lotter AF, Bigler C (2000) Do diatoms in the Swiss Alps reflect the length of ice-cover? Aquat Sci 62:125–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lotter AF, Birks HJB, Hofmann W, Marchetto A (1997) Modern diatom, cladocera, chironomid, and chrysophyte assemblages as quantitative indicators for the reconstruction of past environmental conditions in the Alps. I. Climate. J Paleolimnol 18:395–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. MacLeod J (2014) Lakes in the Far North of Ontario: regional comparisons and contrasts. MSc thesis, Laurentian University, Sudbury, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  50. Macrae ML, Brown LC, Duguay CR, Parrott JA, Petrone RM (2014) Observed and projected climate change in the Churchill region of the Hudson Bay Lowlands and implications for pond sustainability. Arct Antarct Alp Res 46:272–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Martini IP (2006) The cold-climate peatlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland, Canada: brief overview of recent work. In: Martini IP, MartinezCortizas A, Chesworth W (eds) Peatlands: evolution and records of environmental and climate changes. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 53–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McKenney DW, Pedlar JH, Lawrence K, Gray PA, Colombo SJ, Crins WJ (2010) Current and projected future climatic conditions for ecoregions and selected natural heritage areas in Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Climate Change Research Report CCRR-16Google Scholar
  53. Michelutti N, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2003) Diatom response to recent climatic change in a High Arctic lake (Char Lake, Cornwallis Island, Nunavut). Glob Planet Change 38:257–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Michelutti N, Wolfe AP, Vinebrooke RD, Rivard B, Briner J (2005) Recent primary production increases in arctic lakes. Geophys Res Lett 32:L19715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Michelutti N, Blais JM, Cumming BF, Paterson AM, Rühland K, Wolfe AP, Smol JP (2010) Do spectrally inferred determinations of chlorophyll a reflect trends in lake trophic status? J Paleolimnol 43:205–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Nevalainen L, Ketola M, Korosi JB, Manca M, Kurmayer R, Koinig KA, Psenner R, Luoto TP (2014) Zooplankton (Cladocera) species turnover and long-term decline of Daphnia in two high mountain lakes in the Austrian Alps. Hydrobiologia 722:75–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Oksanen J, Blanchet FG, Kindt R, Legendre P, Michin PR, O’Hara RB, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Stevens MHH, Wagner H (2014) Vegan: community ecology package. R package version 2.2-0.
  58. Potts WTW, Fryer G (1979) The effects of pH and salt content on sodium balance in Daphnia magna and Acantholeberis curvirostris (Crustacea: Cladocera). J Comp Physiol B 129:289–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. R Development Core Team (2012) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.
  60. Rautio M, Sorvari S, Korhola A (2000) Diatom and crustacean zooplankton communities, their seasonal variability and representation in the sediments of subarctic Lake Saanajärvi. J Limnol 59:81–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Riley JL (2011) Wetlands of the Ontario Hudson Bay Lowland: a regional overview. Nature Conservancy of Canada, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  62. Rouse WR (1991) Impacts of Hudson Bay on the terrestrial climate of the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Arct Alp Res 23:24–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rühland KM, Paterson AM, Hargan K, Jenkin A, Clark BJ, Smol JP (2010) Reorganization of algal communities in the Lake of the Woods (Ontario, Canada) in response to turn-of-the-century damming and recent warming. Limnol Oceano 55:2433–2451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rühland KM, Paterson AM, Keller W, Michelutti N, Smol JP (2013) Global warming triggers the loss of a key Arctic refugium. Proc R Soc B 280:20131887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rühland KM, Hargan KE, Jeziorski A, Paterson AM, Keller W, Smol JP (2014) A multi-trophic exploratory survey of recent environmental change using lake sediments in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Ontario, Canada. Arct Antarct Alp Res 46:139–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Rühland KM, Paterson AM, Smol JP (2015) Lake diatom responses to warming: reviewing the evidence. J Paleolimnol 54:1–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schelske CL, Peplow A, Brenner M, Spencer CN (1994) Low-background gamma counting: applications for 210Pb dating of sediments. J Paleolimnol 10:115–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sivarajah B, Rühland KR, Labaj A, Paterson AM, Smol JP (2016) Why is the relative abundance of Asterionella formosa increasing in Boreal Shield lakes as nutrient levels decline? J Paleolimnol 55:357–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Smol JP (2016) Arctic and Sub-Arctic shallow lakes in a multiple-stressor world: a paleoecological perspective. Hydrobiologia 778:253–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Smol JP, Douglas MSV (2007) From controversy to consensus: making the case for recent climate change in the Arctic using lake sediments. Front Ecol Environ 5:466–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Smol JP, Wolfe AP, Birks HJB, Douglas MSV, Jones VJ, Korhola A, Pienitz R, Rühland KM, 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 USA 102:4397–4402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Solovieva N, Jones V, Birks JHB, Appleby P, Nazarova L (2008) Diatom responses to 20th century climate warming in lakes from the northern Urals, Russia. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclim Palaeoecol 259:96–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Spaulding S, Edlund M (2009) Asterionella. In: Diatoms of the United States. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from
  74. Stewart EM, McIver R, Michelutti N, Douglas MSV, Smol JP (2014) Assessing the efficacy of chironomid and diatom assemblages in tracking eutrophication in High Arctic sewage ponds. Hydrobiologia 721:251–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sweetman JN, LaFace E, Rühland KM, Smol JP (2008) Evaluating the response of Cladocera to recent environmental changes in lakes from the Central Canadian Arctic Treeline Region. Arct Antarct Alp Res 40:584–591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Tapia PM, Harwood DM (2002) Upper Cretaceous diatom biostratigraphy of the Arctic Archipelago and northern continental margin, Canada. Micropaleontol 48:303–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Thienpont JR, Rühland KM, Pisaric MFJ, Kokelj SV, Kimpe LE, Blais JM, Smol JP (2013) Biological responses to permafrost thaw slumping in Canadian Arctic lakes. Freshw Biol 58:337–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Toms JD, Lesperance ML (2003) Piecewise regression: a tool for identifying ecological thresholds. Ecology 84:2034–2041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Vincent WF, Laurion I, Pienitz R, Walter Anthony KM (2013) Climate impacts on Arctic lake ecosystems. In: Goldman CR, Kumagai M, Robarts RD (eds) Climatic change and global warming of inland waters: impacts and mitigation for ecosystems and societies. Wiley, New York, pp 27–42Google Scholar
  80. Weckström J, Hanhijärvi S, Forsström L, Kuusisto E, Korhola A (2014) Reconstructing lake ice cover in subarctic lakes using a diatom-based inference model. Geophys Res Lett 41:2026–2032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. White J, Hall RI, Wolfe BB, Light EM, Macrae ML, Fishback L (2014) Hydrological connectivity and basin morphometry influence seasonal water-chemistry variations in tundra ponds of the northwestern Hudson Bay Lowlands. Arct Antarct Alp Res 46(1):218–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wiltse B (2014) The response of Discostella species to climate change at the Experimental Lakes Area, Canada. PhD thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  83. Winder M, Hunter DA (2008) Temporal organization of phytoplankton communities linked to physical forcing. Oecologia 156:179–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wolfe AP, Vinebrooke RD, Michelutti N, Rivard B, Das B (2006) Experimental calibration of lake-sediment spectral reflectance to chlorophyll a concentrations: methodology and paleolimnological validation. J Paleolimnol 36:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn E. Hargan
    • 1
    • 4
  • Clare Nelligan
    • 1
  • Adam Jeziorski
    • 1
  • Kathleen M. Rühland
    • 1
  • Andrew M. Paterson
    • 2
  • Wendel Keller
    • 3
  • John P. Smol
    • 1
  1. 1.Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL), Department of BiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Dorset Environmental Science CentreOntario Ministry of the Environment and Climate ChangeDorsetCanada
  3. 3.Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit, Vale Living with Lakes CentreLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations