Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 37–50 | Cite as

The potential of site-specific and local chironomid-based inference models for reconstructing past lake levels

  • Joshua Kurek
  • Les C. Cwynar
Original Paper


We examined the relationship between three key environmental variables (water depth, loss-on-ignition, and bottom-water temperature) and fossil chironomid distributions sampled from within-lake gradients in three small, moderately deep (18–35 m), maar lakes on St Michael Island, western Alaska. Site-specific (one lake, 29 samples) and local (three lakes, 87 samples) inference models for reconstructing water depth were developed using partial least squares regression and calibration. These models and a previously published regional model (136 lakes, one central-lake sample from each) are used to infer water depths from 78 fossil samples spanning the last ~30,000 14C years B.P. at Zagoskin Lake. Although the site-specific [r 2 boot = 0.90, root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) = 1.76] and local (r boot 2  = 0.68, RMSEP = 4.36) inference models have better performance statistics than the regional model, few clear trends among all three models exist in the lake-level reconstruction. We propose that multiple, within-lake sampling of gradients can be used to improve the performance statistics of water-depth transfer functions and ultimately reconstruct paleohydrology in regions known to exhibit large fluctuations in moisture balance through time given that: (1) adequate analogs are established and (2) taphonomic processes important to benthic invertebrate remains are more fully understood.


Chironomids Water depth Transfer function Lake level Fossil remains Alaska 



We would like to thank Dena and Jerry Austin for their hospitality while on St Michael Island. Special thanks to Jesse Vermaire as he was an invaluable field assistant and Erin Barley for use of her data. Stephan Engels provided constructive comments to an early draft of this manuscript and Oliver Heiri gave insightful suggestions on preliminary ordination methods. Two anonymous reviewers also improved this paper. Most sincere thanks to Tom Ager (USGS) for his enthusiasm about St Michael Island and use of ZL core sediments. This research was funded by a Collaborative Research Opportunity grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to L.C. Cwynar (PI) and an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS B) with Northern Studies Supplemental Funding to J. Kurek. Funding from the Northern Scientific Training Program (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) is also greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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