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

  • J. Lemmen
  • T. Lacourse
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)


  1. Andersen T, Cranston PS, Epler JH (2013) Chironomidae of the Holarctic Region: keys and diagnoses. Part 1 larvae. Insect Syst Evol Suppl 66:1–571Google Scholar
  2. Barley EM, Walker IR, Kurek J, Cwynar LC, Mathewes RW, Gajewski K, Finney BP (2006) A northwest North American training set: distribution of freshwater midges in relation to air temperature and lake depth. J Paleolimnol 36:295–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrie JV, Conway KW (2002) Rapid sea-level change and coastal evolution on the Pacific margin of Canada. Sediment Geol 150:171–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barron JA, Heusser L, Herbert T, Lyle M (2003) High-resolution climatic evolution of coastal northern California during the past 16,000 years. Paleoceanography 18:1020CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartlein PJ, Anderson KH, Anderson PM, Edwards ME, Mock CJ, Thompson RS, Webb RS, Webb T III, Whitlock C (1998) Paleoclimate simulations for North America over the past 21,000 years: features of the simulated climate and comparisons with the paleoenvironmental data. Quat Sci Rev 17:549–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Battarbee RW, Thompson R, Catalan J, Grytnes JA, Birks HJB (2002) Climate variability and ecosystem dynamics of remote alpine arctic lakes: the MOLAR project. J Paleolimnol 28:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bennett KD (1996) Determination of the number of zones in a biostratigraphical sequence. New Phytol 132:155–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berger A, Loutre MF (1991) Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years. Quat Sci Rev 10:297–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blaauw M (2010) Methods and code for ‘classical’ age-modelling of radiocarbon sequences. Quat Geochronol 5:512–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brooks SJ, Langdon PG, Heiri O (2007) The identification and use of palaearctic chironomidae larvae in palaeoecology. Technical guide no. 10. Quaternary Research Association, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooks SJ, Axford Y, Heiri O, Langdon PG, Larocque-Tobler I (2012) Chironomids can be reliable proxies for Holocene temperatures. A comment on Velle et al. (2010). Holocene 22:1495–1500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown KJ, Hebda RJ (2002) Origin, development, and dynamics of coastal temperate conifer rainforests of southern Vancouver Island, Canada. Can J For Res 32:353–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chase M, Bleskie C, Walker IR, Gavin DG, Hu FS (2008) Midge-inferred Holocene summer temperatures in southeastern British Columbia, Canada. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 257:244–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Egan J, Staff R, Blackford J (2015) A high-precision age estimate of the Holocene Plinian eruption of Mount Mazama, Oregon, USA. Holocene 25:1054–1067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eggermont H, Heiri O (2012) The chironomid-temperature relationship: expression in nature and palaeoenvironmental implications. Biol Rev (Camb) 87:430–456 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Environment Canada (2016) Canadian Climate Normals, 1981–2010. Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment Canada.
  17. Fortin M-C, Medeiros AS, Gajewski K, Barley EM, Larocque-Tobler I, Porinchu DF, Wilson SE (2015) Chironomid-environment relations in northern North America. J Paleolimnol 54:223–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Garcia EA, Mittelbach GG (2008) Regional coexistence and local dominance in Chaoborus: species sorting along a predation gradient. Ecology 89:1703–1713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gavin DG, Brubaker LB, Greenwald DN (2013) Postglacial climate and fire-mediated vegetation change on the western Olympic Peninsula, Washington (USA). Ecol Monogr 83:471–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heiri O, Lotter AF, Lemcke G (2001) Loss on ignition as a method for estimating organic and carbonate content in sediments: reproducibility and comparability of results. J Paleolimnol 25:101–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heusser CJ, Heusser LE, Peteet DM (1985) Late-Quaternary climatic change on the American North Pacific Coast. Nature 315:485–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hill MO (1973) Diversity and evenness: a unifying notation and its consequences. Ecology 54:427–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huber UM, Bugmann HKM, Reasoner MA (2005) Global change and mountain regions: an overview of current knowledge. Springer, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. James T, Gowan EJ, Hutchinson I, Clague JJ, Barrie JV, Conway KW (2009) Sea-level change and paleogeographic reconstructions, southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Quat Sci Rev 28:1200–1216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johannesson T, Bjornsson H, Grothendieck G (2012) Stinepack: Stineman, a consistently well behaved method of interpolation. R package version 1.3.
  26. Kienast S, McKay JL (2001) Sea surface temperatures in the subarctic Northeast Pacific reflect millennial-scale climate oscillations during the last 16 kyears. Geophys Res Lett 28:1563–1566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kurek J, Cwynar LC, Weeber RC, Jeffries DS, Smol JP (2010) Ecological distributions of Chaoborus species in small, shallow lakes from the Canadian Boreal Shield ecozone. Hydrobiologia 652:207–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lacourse T (2005) Late Quaternary dynamics of forest vegetation on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Quat Sci Rev 24:105–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lacourse T, Mathewes RW, Fedje DW (2005) Late-glacial vegetation dynamics of the Queen Charlotte Islands and adjacent continental shelf, British Columbia, Canada. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 226:36–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lacourse T, Delepine JM, Hoffman E, Mathewes RW (2012) A 14,000 year vegetation history of a hypermaritime island on the outer Pacific coast of Canada based on fossil pollen, spores and conifer stomata. Quat Res 78:572–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lamontagne S, Schindler DW (1994) Historical status of fish populations in Canadian Rocky Mountain lakes inferred from subfossil Chaoborus (Diptera, Chaoboridae) mandibles. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 51:1376–1383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Luoto TP, Kaukolehto M, Weckström J, Korhola A, Väliranta M (2014) New evidence of warm early-Holocene summers in subarctic Finland based on an enhanced regional chironomid-based temperature calibration model. Quat Res 81:50–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Marcott SA, Shakun JD, Clark PU, Mix AC (2013) A reconstruction of regional and global temperature for the past 11,300 years. Science 339:1198–1201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Massaferro J, Larocque-Tobler I, Brooks SJ, Vandergoes M, Dieffenbacher-Krall A, Moreno P (2014) Quantifying climate change in Huelmo mire (Chile, Northwestern Patagonia) during the Last Glacial Termination using a newly developed chironomid-based temperature model. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 399:214–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mathewes RW (1993) Evidence for Younger Dryas-age cooling on the north Pacific coast of America. Quat Sci Rev 12:321–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Medeiros AS, Gajewski K, Porinchu DF, Vermaire JC, Wolfe BB (2015) Detecting the influence of secondary environmental gradients on chironomid-inferred paleotemperature reconstructions in northern North America. Quat Sci Rev 124:265–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mikolajewicz U, Crowley TJ, Schiller A, Voss R (1997) Modelling teleconnections between the North Atlantic and North Pacific during the Younger Dryas. Nature 387:384–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mosher DC, Hewitt AT (2004) Late Quaternary deglaciation and sea-level history of eastern Juan de Fuca Strait, Cascadia. Quat Int 121:23–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. New M, Lister D, Hulme M, Makin I (2002) A high-resolution data set of surface climate over global land areas. Clim Res 21:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. NGRIP (2004) High-resolution record of Northern Hemisphere climate extending into the last interglacial period. Nature 431:147–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Okumura YM, Deser C, Hu A, Timmermann A, Xie SP (2009) North Pacific climate response to freshwater forcing in the subarctic North Atlantic: ocean and atmospheric pathways. J Clim 22:1424–1445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oliver DR, Roussel ME (1983) The insects and arachnids of Canada. Part 11. The genera of larval midges of Canada—Diptera: Chironomidae. Agriculture Canada Publication 1746, Minister of Supply and Services, Ottawa, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  43. Ormond CI, Rosenfeld JS, Taylor EB (2011) Environmental determinants of threespine stickleback species pair evolution and persistence. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 68:1983–1997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Palm F, El-Daoushy F, Svensson J-E (2012) Development of subfossil Daphnia and Chaoborus assemblages in relation to progressive acidification and fish community alterations in SW Sweden. Hydrobiologia 684:83–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Palmer S, Walker I, Heinrichs M, Hebda R, Scudder G (2002) Postglacial midge community change and Holocene palaeotemperature reconstructions near treeline, southern British Columbia (Canada). J Paleolimnol 28:469–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Patterson RT, Swindles GT, Roe HM, Kumar A, Prokoph A (2011) Dinoflagellate cyst-based reconstructions of mid to late Holocene winter sea-surface temperature and productivity from an anoxic fjord in the NE Pacific Ocean. Quat Int 235:13–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Payne RJ, Babeshko KV, Van Bellen S, Blackford JJ, Booth RK, Charman DJ, Ellershaw MR, Gilbery D, Hughes PDM, Jassey VEJ, Lamentowicz L, Lamentowicz M, Malysheva EA, Mauquoy D, Mazei Y, Mitchell EAD, Swindles GT, Tsyganov AN, Turner TW, Telford RJ (2016) Significance testing testate amoeba water table reconstructions. Quat Sci Rev 138:131–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Porinchu DF, MacDonald GM, Bloom AM, Moser KA (2003) Late Pleistocene and early Holocene climate and limnological changes in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA inferred from midges (Insecta: Diptera: Chironomidae). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 198:403–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Praetorius SK, Mix AC (2014) Synchronization of North Pacific and Greenland climates preceded abrupt deglacial warming. Science 345:444–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Praetorius SK, Mix AC, Walczak MH, Wolhowe MD, Addison JA, Prahl FG (2015) North Pacific deglacial hypoxic events linked to abrupt ocean warming. Nature 527:362–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Quinlan R, Smol JP (2010) The extant Chaoborus assemblage can be assessed using subfossil mandibles. Freshw Biol 55:2458–2467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. R Core Team (2016) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  53. Reimer PJ, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck JW, Blackwell PG, Ramsey CB, Buck CE, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Friedrich M, Grootes PM, Guilderson TP, Haflidason H, Hajdas I, Hatté C, Heaton TJ, Hoffmann DL, Hogg AG, Hughen KA, Kaiser KF, Kromer B, Manning SW, Niu M, Reimer RW, Richards DA, Scott EM, Southon JR, Staff RA, Turney CSM, van der Plicht J (2013) IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55:1869–1887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rosenberg SM, Walker IR, Mathewes RW, Hallett DJ (2004) Midge-inferred Holocene climate history of two subalpine lakes in southern British Columbia, Canada. Holocene 14:258–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Salonen JS, Helmens KF, Seppä H, Birks HJB (2013) Pollen-based palaeoclimate reconstructions over long glacial-interglacial timescales: methodological tests based on the Holocene and MIS 5d–c deposits at Sokli, northern Finland. J Quat Sci 28:271–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Simpson GL, Oksanen J (2016) Analogue: analogue and weighted averaging methods for paleoecology. R package version 0.17-0.
  57. Smith B, Wilson JB (1996) A consumer’s guide to evenness indices. Oikos 76:70–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Smith MJ, Pellatt MG, Walker IR, Mathewes RW (1998) Postglacial changes in chironomid communities and inferred climate near treeline at Mount Stoyoma, Cascade Mountains, southwestern British Columbia, Canada. J Paleolimnol 20:277–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stineman RW (1980) A consistently well-behaved method of interpolation. Creat Comput 6(7):54–57Google Scholar
  60. Telford RJ (2015) palaeoSig: Significance tests of quantitative palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. R package version 1.1-3.
  61. Telford RJ, Birks HJB (2011) A novel method for assessing the statistical significance of quantitative reconstructions inferred from biotic assemblages. Quat Sci Rev 30:1272–1278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tolonen KT, Brodersen KP, Kleisborg TA, Holmgren K, Dahlberg M, Hamerlik L, Hämäläinen H (2012) Phantom midge-based models for inferring past fish abundances. J Paleolimnol 47:531–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Upiter LM, Vermaire JC, Patterson RT, Crann CA, Galloway JM, Macumber AL, Neville LA, Swindles GT, Falck H, Roe HM, Pisaric MFJ (2014) Middle to late Holocene chironomid-inferred July temperatures for the central Northwest Territories, Canada. J Paleolimnol 52:11–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Uutala AJ (1990) Chaoborus (Diptera: Chaoboridae) mandibles—paleolimnological indicators of the historical status of fish populations in acid sensitive lakes. J Paleolimnol 4:139–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Uutala AJ, Smol JP (1996) Palaeolimnological reconstructions of long-term changes in fisheries status in Sudbury area lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 53:174–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Walker IR (2001) Midges: Chironomidae and related Diptera. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments, vol 4. Zoological indicators. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 43–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Walker IR (2007) The WWW field guide to fossil midges.
  68. Walker IR, Mathewes RW (1987) Chironomidae (Diptera) and postglacial climate at Marion Lake, British Columbia, Canada. Quat Res 27:89–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walker IR, Mathewes RW (1989a) Early postglacial chironomid succession in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, and its paleoenvironmental significance. J Paleolimnol 2:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Walker IR, Mathewes RW (1989b) Chironomidae (Diptera) remains in surficial lake sediments from the Canadian Cordillera: analysis of the fauna across an altitudinal gradient. J Paleolimnol 2:61–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Walker IR, Pellatt MG (2003) Climate change in coastal British Columbia—a paleoenvironmental perspective. Can Water Resour J 28:531–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Whitney BS, Vincent JH, Cwynar LC (2005) A midge-based late-glacial temperature reconstruction from southwestern Nova Scotia. Can J Earth Sci 42:2051–2057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wissel B, Yan ND, Ramcharan CW (2003) Predation and refugia: implications for Chaoborus abundance and species composition. Freshw Biol 48:1421–1431CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations