Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 427–442 | Cite as

Fossil chironomid assemblages and inferred summer temperatures for the past 14,000 years from a low-elevation lake in Pacific Canada

Original paper


Fossil midge remains in a sediment core from Lake Stowell, a low-elevation lake in coastal British Columbia, Canada, were used to assess temporal changes in chironomid communities and to produce quantitative estimates of mean July air temperature (MJAT) for the past 14,000 years based on two different transfer functions. Chironomid assemblages are diverse throughout much of the record, with most taxa present at low relative abundances. The basal portion of the sediment record is characterized by low head capsule concentrations, taxonomic diversity and organic matter content, all of which increase towards the early Holocene. Inferred temperatures suggest a cool late-glacial interval with a minimum MJAT of 12.5 °C, ~2 °C cooler than the inferred modern temperature. Summer temperatures gradually increased from this minimum until a brief cooling of as much as ~3 °C relative to modern that coincides with the Younger Dryas chronozone. An interval of warmer summers with MJAT of ~16 to 18 °C (2–3 °C warmer than modern) is inferred between ~10,500 and 8000 cal year BP. This early Holocene warm period was followed by generally cooler inferred temperatures in the middle and late Holocene. The midge-inferred temperature record from Lake Stowell is generally consistent with other temperature reconstructions from the region based on chironomid remains and other climate proxies. This research underscores the potential of low-elevation, mid-latitude sites for chironomid-based temperature reconstructions. In order to maximize the availability of modern analogues for robust temperature reconstructions from similar sites, calibration datasets should be expanded to include more sites from the warm end of the temperature gradient.


Chironomidae Chaoborus Temperature reconstruction Transfer function randomTF test Younger Dryas British Columbia Climate change 



We thank M. Davies, S. Goring, T. Johnsen, J. Lucas and M. Pellatt for field assistance, D. Fedje for help with diatom identification, I. R. Walker, J. Kurek, A. S. Medeiros and R. Quinlan for help with chironomid identification, and I. R. Walker for constructive comments on a previous version of the manuscript. An anonymous reviewer provided thoughtful feedback that helped improve the manuscript. Funding was provided through research grants to T. Lacourse from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Supplementary material

10933_2017_9998_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (117 kb)
Fig. S1 Chaoborus percentages and total concentration (individuals/cm3) in the sediment core from Lake Stowell, Saltspring Island, British Columbia. Each Chaoborus mandible was counted as half of one individual. Note changes in scale for C. (Sayomyia) and C. americanus. Grey shading represents 5× exaggeration (PDF 118 kb)
10933_2017_9998_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (71 kb)
Table S1 Lake Stowell sample depths, sample ages, and inferred mean July air temperature estimates using the Fortin et al. (2015) and Barley et al. (2006) transfer functions (XLSX 70 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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