Regional changes in Cladocera (Branchiopoda, Crustacea) assemblages in subarctic (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada) lakes impacted by historic gold mining activities

Abstract

In Yellowknife (Northwest Territories, Canada), roaster stack emissions from historic gold mining activities, particularly Giant Mine (1948–2004), have left a legacy of arsenic contamination in lakes. We examined Cladocera (Branchiopoda, Crustacea) subfossil remains in the recent and pre-industrial sediments of 23 lakes (arsenic gradient of 1.5–750 µg/l) within a 40 km radius of Giant Mine to provide a snapshot of regional change in Cladocera since pre-1850. We found that littoral and benthic taxa dominated the recent assemblages in high-[As] lakes (surface water [As] > 100 µg/l), while pelagic Bosmina was dominant in lakes with lower [As]. Cladocera richness and diversity were positively correlated with [As] (P = 0.004, R2 = 0.39; and P = 0.002, R2 = 0.46, respectively), except for four lakes with [As] > 100 µg/l. The lakes that showed the most pronounced changes in Cladocera since pre-1850 were those affected by both metal(loid) pollution and urban development, where complete shifts in the dominant taxa occurred. Lakes that were most heavily impacted by arsenic emissions did not experience notable shifts in Cladocera assemblages. Our study suggests that changes in Cladocera assemblages in mining-impacted subarctic lakes are modulated by local, lake-specific limnological conditions and the interaction of multiple stressors.

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Acknowledgments

We thank David Eickmeyer, Joshua Thienpont, Mija Azdajic, Claudia Tanamal, and Martin Pothier for field work assistance. Logistical support and advice by Mike Palmer (Aurora Research Institute) are also greatly appreciated. This work was funded by a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Strategic Grant to JMB and JPS (Grant # STPGP 462955-14), the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship program (JBK) as well as Northern Scientific Training Program grants to CLC and BS. Helicopter support for lake sediment coring was provided by the Polar Continental Shelf Program (JMB).

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Persaud, A.A., Cheney, C.L., Sivarajah, B. et al. Regional changes in Cladocera (Branchiopoda, Crustacea) assemblages in subarctic (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada) lakes impacted by historic gold mining activities. Hydrobiologia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-021-04534-9

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Keywords

  • Arsenic
  • Limnology
  • Paleo-ecotoxicology
  • Zooplankton
  • Legacy contaminants
  • Arctic