Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 407–429 | Cite as

New Zealand chironomids as proxies for human-induced and natural environmental change: Transfer functions for temperature and lake production (chlorophyll a)

Original Paper


The analysis of chironomid taxa and environmental datasets from 46 New Zealand lakes identified temperature (February mean air temperature) and lake production (chlorophyll a (Chl a)) as the main drivers of chironomid distribution. Temperature was the strongest driver of chironomid distribution and consequently produced the most robust inference models. We present two possible temperature transfer functions from this dataset. The most robust model (weighted averaging-partial least squares (WA-PLS), n = 36) was based on a dataset with the most productive (Chl a > 10 µg l−1) lakes removed. This model produced a coefficient of determination (\(r^{2}_{\rm jack}\)) of 0.77, and a root mean squared error of prediction (RMSEPjack) of 1.31°C. The Chl a transfer function (partial least squares (PLS), n = 37) was far less reliable, with an \(r^{2}_{\rm jack}\) of 0.49 and an RMSEPjack of 0.46 Log10µg l−1. Both of these transfer functions could be improved by a revision of the taxonomy for the New Zealand chironomid taxa, particularly the genus Chironomus. The Chironomus morphotype was common in high altitude, cool, oligotrophic lakes and lowland, warm, eutrophic lakes. This could reflect the widespread distribution of one eurythermic species, or the collective distribution of a number of different Chironomus species with more limited tolerances. The Chl a transfer function could also be improved by inputting mean Chl a values into the inference model rather than the spot measurements that were available for this study.


Chironomids New Zealand Transfer function Temperature Chlorophyll a 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



Financial support for this work came from Marsden contract UOC301 and the Mason Scientific and Technical Trust (Department of Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury). Dr Michael Reid kindly supplied surface sediment samples and water chemistry data from his New Zealand diatom training set. Dr Ian Boothroyd provided valuable assistance with the taxonomy of New Zealand chironomids. We also thank Marcus Vandergoes (based at the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine) for generous support, guidance, as well as invaluable discussions on everything ranging from taxonomy to fieldwork logistics. Completion of this project would not have been possible without the support of many people in the field (including the New Zealand Department of Conservation), and the various land owners that provided access to the lakes situated on private land. Input from Peter Langdon and an anonymous reviewer greatly contributed to the quality of the final manuscript.


  1. Armitage P, Cranston PS, Pinder LCV (eds) (1995) The Chironomidae: The biology and ecology of non-biting midges. Chapman and Hall, London, 572 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennion H, Appleby P (1999) An assessment of recent environmental change in Llangorse Lake using paleolimnology. Aquat Conserv Mar Freshw Ecol 9:361–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birks HJB (1995) Quantitative palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. In: Maddy D, Brew JS (eds) Statistical modelling of quaternary science data. Quaternary Research Association, Technical Guide 5. Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, pp␣161–254Google Scholar
  4. Birks HJB (1998) Numerical tools in paleolimnology progress, potentialities, and problems. J Paleolimnol 20:307–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Birks HJB, Line JM (1992) The use of rarefaction analysis for estimating palynological richness from Quaternary pollen-analytical data. Holocene 2:1–10Google Scholar
  6. Bloom AM, Moser KA, Porinchu DF, MacDonald GM (2003) Diatom-inference models for surface-water temperature and salinity developed from a 57-lake calibration set from the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. J Paleolimnol 29:235–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boothroyd IKG (1994) Two Orthocladiinae (Chironomidae) genera common to New Zealand and Australia: Pirara n. gen. and Eukiefferiella Thienemann. In: Cranston P (ed) Chironomids: from genes to ecosystems. CSIRO Publications, Canberra, pp 389–480Google Scholar
  8. Boothroyd IKG (1999) Description of Kaniwhaniwhanus gen. n. (Diptera: Chironomidae: Orthocladiinae) from New Zealand. N Z J Mar Freshw Res 33:341–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boothroyd IKG (2002) Cricotopus and Paratrichocladius (Chironomidae: Insecta) in New Zealand, with description of C. hollyfordensis n. sp., and redescriptions of adult and immature stages of C. zealandicus and P. pluriserialis. N Z J Mar Freshw Res 36:775–788Google Scholar
  10. Boubee JAP (1983) Past and present benthic fauna of Lake Maratoto, with special reference to the Chironomidae. Ph.D. thesis, University of Waikato, New Zealand, 151 ppGoogle Scholar
  11. Brodersen KP, Lindegaard C (1999) Classification, assessment and trophic reconstruction of Danish lakes using chironomids. Freshw Biol 42:143–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brodersen KP, Pedersen O, Lindegaard C, Hamburger K (2004) Chironomids (Diptera) and oxy-regulatory capacity: an experimental approach to paleolimnological interpretation. Limnol Oceanogr 49:1549–1559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Broecker W (1997) Future directions of paleoclimate research. Quat Sci Rev 16:821–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brooks SJ, Birks HJB (2000) Chironomid-inferred late-glacial and early-Holocene mean July air temperatures for Krakenes Lake, western Norway. J Paleolimnol 23:77–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brooks SJ, Birks HJB (2001) Chironomid-inferred air temperatures from Lateglacial and Holocene sites in north-west Europe: progress and problems. Quat Sci Rev 20:1723–1741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brooks SJ, Bennion H, Birks HJB (2001) Tracing lake trophic history with a chironomid-total phosphorus inference model. Freshw Biol 46:513–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brüchmann C, Jörg FW (2004) Indication of climatically induced natural eutrophication during the early Holocene period, based on annually laminated sediments from Lake Holzmaar, Germany. Quat Int 123–125:117–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Brundin L (1967) Transantarctic relationships and their significance, as evidenced by chironomid midges, with a monograph of the subfamilies Podonominae and Aphroteniinae and the austral Heptagyiae. Kungl. Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Handlingar 11:1–472Google Scholar
  19. Burgherr P, Ward JV (2001) Longitudinal and seasonal distribution patterns of the benthic fauna of an alpine glacial stream (Val Roseg, Swiss Alps). Freshw Biol 46:1705–1721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Burns NM, Rutherford JC (1998) Results of monitoring of New Zealand lakes, 1992–1996. NIWA Client Report: MFE802161/1. National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd, Hamilton, New Zealand, 31 ppGoogle Scholar
  21. Burns N, Bryers G, Bowman E (2000) Protocol for monitoring trophic levels of New Zealand lakes and reservoirs. New Zealand Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, 138 ppGoogle Scholar
  22. Deevy ES (1955) Paleolimnology of the upper swamp deposit, Pyramid Valley. Rec Canterbury Mus 6:291–344Google Scholar
  23. Denton GH, Hendy CH (1994) Younger Dryas age advance of Franz Josef Glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Science 264:1434–1437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Forsyth DJ (1971) Some New Zealand Chironomidae (Diptera). J R Soc NZ 1:113–144Google Scholar
  25. Glew JR (1991) Miniature gravity corer for recovering short sediment cores. J Paleolimnol 5:285–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Griffiths GA, McSaveney MJ (1983) Distribution of mean annual precipitation across some steepland regions of New Zealand. N Z J Sci 26:197–209Google Scholar
  27. Hamilton B (2003) A review of short term management options for lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti. New Zealand Ministry for the Environment Report. Wellington, New Zealand, 69 ppGoogle Scholar
  28. Hofmann W (1986) Chironomid analysis. In: Berglund BE (ed) Handbook of Holocene palaeoecology and palaeohydrology. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, pp 715–727Google Scholar
  29. Juggins S (1992) ZONE (version 1.2): an MSDOS program for transformation and zonation of palaeoecological data. University of Newcastle, 17 ppGoogle Scholar
  30. Juggins S (2003) C2 software for ecological and paleoecological data analysis and visualisation. User guide version 1.3. University of Newcastle, 69 ppGoogle Scholar
  31. Kauppila T, Moiso T, Salonen VP (2002) A diatom-based inference model for autumn epilimnetic total phosphorus concentration and its application to a presently eutrophic boreal lake. J Paleolimnol 27:261–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Langdon PG, Ruiz Z, Brodersen KP, Foster IDL (2006) Assessing lake eutrophication using chironomids: understanding the nature of community response in different lake types. Freshw Biol 51:562–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Larocque I, Hall RI, Grahn E (2001) Chironomids as indicators of climate change: a 100-lake training set from a subantarctic region of northern Sweden (Lapland). J Paleolimnol 26:307–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leathwick JR, Wilson G, Stephens RTT (1998) Climate surfaces for New Zealand. Landcare Research Contract Report LC9798. Landcare Research, Hamilton, New Zealand, 26 ppGoogle Scholar
  35. Little JL, Smol JP (2001) A chironomid-based model for inferring late-summer hypolimnetic oxygen in southeastern Ontario lakes. J Paleolimnol 26:259–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lotter AF, Birks HJB, Hofmann W, Marchetto A (1997) Modern diatom, cladocera, chironomid, and chrysophyte cyst assemblages as quantitative indicators for the reconstruction of past environmental conditions in the Alps.1. Climate. J Paleolimnol 18:395–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McGlone MS, Turney CSM, Wilmhurst JM (2004) Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation and climatic history of the Cass basin, central South Island, New Zealand. Quat Res 62:267–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marra MJ, Smith EGC, Shulmeister J, Leschen R (2004) Late Quaternary climate change in the Awatere Valley, South Island, New Zealand using a sine model with a maximum likelihood envelope on fossil beetle data. Quat Sci Rev 23:1637–1650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ogden J, Basher L, McGlone M (1998) Fire, forest regeneration and links with early human habitation: evidence from New Zealand. Ann Bot 81:687–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olander H, Korhola A, Blom T (1997) Surface sediment Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera) distributions along an ecotonal transect in subarctic Fennoscandia: developing a tool for palaeotemperature reconstructions. J Paleolimnol 18:45–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Porinchu DF, Cwynar LC (2000) The distribution of freshwater Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera) across a treeline near the lower Lena River, Northeast Siberia, Russia. Arct Antarct Alp Res 32:429–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Prebble M, Schallenberg M, Carter J, Shulmeister J (2002) An analysis of phytolith assemblages for the quantitative reconstruction of late Quaternary environments of the Lower Taieri Plain, Otago, South Island, New Zealand. I. Modern assemblages and transfer functions. J Paleolimnol 27:393–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Quinlan R, Smol JP (2001) Setting minimum head capsule abundance and taxa deletion criteria in chironomid-based inference models. J Paleolimnol 26:327–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Quinlan R, Smol JP (2002) Regional assessment of long-term hypolimnetic oxygen changes in Ontario (Canada) shield lakes using subfossil chironomids. J␣Paleolimnol 27:249–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reid M (2005) Diatom-based models for reconstructing past water quality and productivity in New Zealand lakes. J Paleolimnol 33:13–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rieradevall M, Brooks SJ (2001) An identification guide to subfossil Tanypodinae larvae (Insecta: Diptera: Chironomidae) based on cephalic setation. J Paleolimnol 25:81–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Robb JA (1966) A study on the influence of selected environmental factors on the egg and larval instars of the midge Chironomus zealandicus Hudson. M.Sc. thesis (Zoology), University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 176 ppGoogle Scholar
  48. Rosén P, Hall R, Korsman T, Renberg I (2000) Diatom transfer-functions for quantifying past air temperature, pH and total organic carbon concentration from lakes in northern Sweden. J Paleolimnol 24:109–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rutherford K (2003) Lake Rotorua nutrient load targets. NIWA Client Report: HAM2003-155. National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd, Hamilton, New Zealand, 59 ppGoogle Scholar
  50. Schakau BL (1986) Preliminary study of the development of the subfossil chironomid fauna (Diptera) of Lake Taylor, South Island, New Zealand, during the younger Holocene. Hydrobiologia 143:287–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schakau BL (1991) Stratigraphy of the fossil Chironomidae (Diptera) from Lake Grassmere, South Island, New Zealand, during the last 6000 years. Hydrobiologia 214:213–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schakau BL (1993) Palaeolimnological studies on sediments from Lake Grassmere, South Island, New Zealand, with special reference to the Chironomidae (Diptera). Ph.D. thesis (Zoology), University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 364 ppGoogle Scholar
  53. Shulmeister J, Fink D, Augustinus PC (2005) A cosmogenic chronology of the last glacial transition in North-West Nelson, New Zealand – new insights in Southern Hemisphere climate forcing during the last deglaciation. Earth Planet Sci Lett 233:455–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. SPSS Inc. (2002) SPSS statistical software for Windows. Release 11.5.1. Chicago, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  55. Stark JD (1981) Trophic interrelationships, life-histories and taxonomy of some invertebrates associated with aquatic macrophytes in Lake Grasmere. Ph.D. thesis (Zoology), University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 256 ppGoogle Scholar
  56. Stout VM (1985) The ecology of three small lakes near Kaikoura, New Zealand. Mauri Ora 12:133–146Google Scholar
  57. Sturman A, Wanner H (2001) A comparative review of the weather and climate of the Southern Alps of New Zealand and the European Alps. Mountain Res Dev 21:359–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Taylor R (2001) Benthic ecology of glacial rivers in South Westland with particular reference to the Chironomidae. M.Sc. thesis (Zoology), University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 114 ppGoogle Scholar
  59. Taylor R, Smith I (eds) (1997) The state of New Zealand’s environment 1997. The Ministry for the Environment GP Publications, Wellington, New Zealand, 655 ppGoogle Scholar
  60. ter Braak CJF (1995) Non-linear methods for multivariate statistical calibration and their use in palaeoecology: a comparison of inverse (k- nearest neighbours, partial least squares and weighted averaging partial least squares) and classical approaches. Chemometrics Intell Lab Syst 28:165–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. ter Braak CJF, Juggins S (1993) Weighted averaging partial least squares regression (WA-PLS): an improved method for reconstructing environmental variables from species assemblages. Hydrobiologia 269:485–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. ter Braak CJF, Šmilauer P (1998) CANOCO reference manual and user’s guide to CANOCO for Windows: software for canonical community ordination version 4. Microcomputer Power, Ithaca, 351 ppGoogle Scholar
  63. ter Braak CJF, Šmilauer P (2002) CANOCO version 4.5. Biometris-Plant Research International, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  64. Timms BV (1982) A study of the benthic communities of twenty lakes in the South Island. N Z Freshw Biol 12:123–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Timms BV (1983) Benthic macroinvertebrates of seven lakes near Cass, Canterbury high country, New Zealand. N Z J Mar Freshw Res 17:37–49Google Scholar
  66. Vandergoes MJ, Fitzsimons SJ (2003) The Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (LGIT) in south Westland, New Zealand: paleoecological insight into mid-latitude Southern Hemisphere climate change. Quat Sci Rev 22:1461–1476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Walker IR (1995) Chironomids as indicators of past environmental change. In: Armitage P, Cranston PS, Pinder LCV (eds) The Chironomidae: the biology and ecology of non-biting midges. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 405–422Google Scholar
  68. 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 43–66Google Scholar
  69. Walker IR, Mathewes RW (1987) Chironomids, lake trophic status, and climate. Quat Res 28:431–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Walker IR, Mathewes RW (1989) 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, Smol JP, Engstrom DR, Birks HJB (1991) An assessment of Chironomidae as quantitative indicators of past climatic change. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 48:975–987Google Scholar
  72. Warner BG, Hann BJ (1987) Aquatic invertebrates as paleoclimatic indicators? Quat Res 28:427–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wilmshurst JM, Wiser SK, Charman DJ (2003) Reconstructing Holocene water tables in New Zealand using testate amoebae: differential preservation of tests and implications for the use of transfer functions. Holocene 13:61–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Woodward C, Shulmeister J (2005) A Holocene record of human induced and natural environmental change from Lake Forsyth (Te Wairewa), New Zealand. J␣Paleolimnol 34:481–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations