Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 955–975 | Cite as

Controls on the contemporary distribution of lake thecamoebians (testate amoebae) within the Greater Toronto Area and their potential as water quality indicators

  • Helen M. Roe
  • R. Timothy Patterson
  • Graeme T. Swindles
Original paper


Thecamoebians were examined from 71 surface sediment samples collected from 21 lakes and ponds in the Greater Toronto Area to (1) elucidate the controls on faunal distribution in modern lake environments; and (2) to consider the utility of thecamoebians in quantitative studies of water quality change. This area was chosen because it includes a high density of kettle and other lakes which are threatened by urban development and where water quality has deteriorated locally as a result of contaminant inputs, particularly nutrients. Fifty-eight samples yielded statistically significant thecamoebian populations. The most diverse faunas (highest Shannon Diversity Index values) were recorded in lakes beyond the limits of urban development, although the faunas of all lakes showed signs of sub-optimal conditions. The assemblages were divided into five clusters using Q-mode cluster analysis, supported by Detrended Correspondence Analysis. Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) was used to examine species-environment relationships and to explain the observed clusterings. Twenty-four measured environmental variables were considered, including water property attributes (e.g., pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen), substrate characteristics, sediment-based phosphorus (Olsen P) and 11 environmentally available metals. The thecamoebian assemblages showed a strong association with phosphorus, reflecting the eutrophic status of many of the lakes, and locally to elevated conductivity measurements, which appear to reflect road salt inputs associated with winter de-icing operations. Substrate characteristics, total organic carbon and metal contaminants (particularly Cu and Mg) also influenced the faunas of some samples. A series of partial CCAs show that of the measured variables, sedimentary phosphorus has the largest influence on assemblage distribution, explaining 6.98% (P < 0.002) of the total variance. A transfer function was developed for sedimentary phosphorus (Olsen P) using 58 samples from 15 of the studied lakes. The best performing model was based on weighted averaging with inverse deshrinking (WA Inv, r jack 2 = 0.33, RMSEP = 102.65 ppm). This model was applied to a small modern thecamoebian dataset from a eutrophic lake in northern Ontario to predict phosphorus and performed satisfactorily. This preliminary study confirms that thecamoebians have considerable potential as quantitative water quality indicators in urbanising regions, particularly in areas influenced by nutrient inputs and road salts.


Thecamoebians Testate amoebae Lakes Eutrophication Phosphorus Transfer function 



This research was funded by a grant to HMR from the The Foundation for Canadian Studies in the United Kingdom and the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Sustained Studies in Contemporary Canadian Issues Program 2003–05) as well as a Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant and funding from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to RTP. We thank Miriam Diamond (University of Toronto), Bernie Smith (Queen’s University Belfast), Stephen Maude (Ontario Ministry of the Environment) and Don Ford (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) for valuable discussions on aspects of lake pollution, conservation and management and John McAlister (Queen’s University, Belfast) and Bob Boudreau for help with the geochemical analyses and interpretations. We also thank Davin Carter for assistance with fieldwork, Julia Simpson and Yoma Megarry for help with laboratory procedures and Gill Alexander for cartographic support.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen M. Roe
    • 1
  • R. Timothy Patterson
    • 2
  • Graeme T. Swindles
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and PalaeoecologyQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre and Department of Earth SciencesCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences (AGES), School of Life SciencesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK

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