Examining 20th century water quality and ecological changes in the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada: A paleolimnological investigation

Academic Article


  • Comparisons between diatom assemblages preserved in modern and pre-industrial sediments were made to provide a lake-wide paleolimnological assessment of environmental change in 17 sites located throughout the Ontario portion of the Lake of the Woods (LoW). Diatom changes were consistent across all sites, although the magnitude of these changes varied along a trophic gradient (i.e., main channel sites versus isolated bays). The most notable taxonomic shift was towards a higher relative abundance of small, centric Cyclotella taxa and other planktonic, pennate diatoms (e.g., Asterionella formosa, Fragilaria crotonensis) in the modern sediments, with corresponding lower relative abundances of heavily silicified Aulacoseira taxa and small benthic Fragilaria taxa. To aid in determining whether changes in nutrients can explain the diatom trends, weighted-averaging partial-least-squares (WA-PLS) techniques were used to develop a diatom-based inference model to reconstruct changes in total phosphorus (TP) concentrations. Diatom-inferrred TP (DI-TP) reconstructions revealed that 88% of the sites showed either no change or a slight, but not significant decline in DI-TP since pre-industrial times. Diatom-based inferences suggest that TP concentrations at many sites in the Ontario portion of the LoW were moderately elevated in nutrients prior to any major human disturbances (i.e., pre-1850). Results suggest that substantial increases in temperature over the last few decades, and the associated changes to ice cover and water column properties, have likely exacerbated the effects of existing stressors on the system and were key factors influencing a lake-wide restructuring of the diatom communities over the past ca. 150. years. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hyatt CV; Paterson AM; Rühland KM; Smol JP
  • Start Page

  • 456
  • End Page

  • 469
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 3