Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 231–241 | Cite as

Water depth is a strong driver of intra-lake diatom distributions in a small boreal lake

  • Cale A. C. GushulakEmail author
  • Kathleen R. Laird
  • Joseph R. Bennett
  • Brian F. Cumming
Original paper


There has been much debate over the relative importance of environmental selection and spatial variation on community organization in microorganisms. To assess the importance of environmental or spatial variables in diatom species assemblages in Gall Lake, northwest Ontario, 41 surface-sediment samples were collected in a two-dimensional gridded pattern along and across depth contours. A depth-constrained cluster analysis separated the diatom flora into three communities: a shallow-water benthic zone (B1); a deeper-water benthic zone (B2); and a planktonic zone (P). Redundancy analysis (RDA) confirmed that water depth was a major predictor of variation in the flora. Further RDAs and variation partitioning using orthogonal polynomials and Moran’s eigenvector maps showed that spatial location had minimal effect on the diatom assemblages. Principal components analysis grouped the diatom flora not only by assemblage, but also by water depth, regardless of two-dimensional spatial separation, suggesting the importance of the environmental gradients associated with lake depth. These findings indicate that environment is a more important explanatory variable than spatial variables for diatoms within lakes, suggesting dispersal plays a limited role in intra-lake diatom distributions.


Diatoms Spatial variables Environmental selection Depth Northwest Ontario 



This project was funded through NSERC Discovery Grants to BFC and JRB. We thank Moumita Karmakar for assistance in the field.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL), Department of BiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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