Geography & Environment Publications

Diatom-inference Models for Surface-water Temperature and Salinity Developed from a 57-lake Calibration Set from the Sierra Nevada, California, USA

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Journal of Paleolimnology

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Physical, chemical, and biological data were collected from a suite of 57 lakes that span an elevational gradient of 1360 m (2115 to 3475 m a.s.l.) in the eastern Sierra Nevada, California, USA as part of a multiproxy study aimed at developing transfer functions from which to infer past drought events. Multivariate statistical techniques, including canonical correspondence analysis (CCA), were used to determine the main environmental variables influencing diatom distributions in the study lakes. Lakewater depth, surface-water temperature, salinity, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and total phosphorus were important variables in explaining variance in the diatom distributions. Weighted-averaging (WA) and weighted-averaging partial least squares (WA-PLS) were used to develop diatom-based surface-water temperature and salinity inference models. The two best diatom-inference models for surface-water temperature were developed using simple WA and inverse deshrinking. One model covered a larger surface-water temperature gradient (13.7 °C) and performed slightly poorer (r2 = 0.72, RMSE = 1.4 °C, RMSEPjack = 2.1 °C) than a second model, which covered a smaller gradient (9.5 °C) and performed slightly better (r2 = 0.89, RMSE = 0.7 °C, RMSEPjack = 1.5 °C). The best diatom-inference model for salinity was developed using WA-PLS with three components (r2 = 0.96, RMSE = 4.06 mg L–1, RMSEPjack = 11.13 mg L–1). These are presently the only diatom-based inference models for surface-water temperature and salinity developed for the southwestern United States. Application of these models to fossil-diatom assemblages preserved in Sierra Nevada lake sediments offers great potential for reconstructing a high-resolution time-series of Holocene and late Pleistocene climate and drought for California.


Dr. Katrina Moser is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.