Geography Publications


The Modern Distribution of Chironomid Sub-fossils (Insecta: Diptera) in the Sierra Nevada, California: Potential for Paleoclimatic Reconstructions

Document Type


Publication Date



Journal of Paleolimnology





First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier


Surface lake sediment was recovered from 57 lakes along an elevation gradient in the central, eastern Sierra Nevada of California. The surface sediment was analysed for subfossil chironomid remains in order to assess the modern distribution of chironomids in the region. The lakes sampled for the calibration dataset were between 2.0 and 40.0 m in depth, spanned an altitudinal gradient of 1360 m and a surface water temperature gradient of approximately 14 °C. Redundancy analysis (RDA) identified that five of the measured environmental variables – surface water temperature, elevation, depth, strontium, particulate organic carbon – accounted for a statistically significant amount of the variance in chironomid community composition. Quantitative transfer functions, based on weighted-averaging (WA), partial least squares (PLS) and weighted-averaging partial least squares (WA-PLS), were developed to estimate surface water temperature from the chironomid assemblages. The best model was a WA model with classical deshrinking, which had a relatively high coefficient of determination (r2 = 0.73), low root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP = 1.2 °C) and a low maximum bias (0.90 °C). The results from this study suggest that robust quantitative estimates of past surface water temperature can be derived from the application of these models to fossil chironomid assemblages preserved in late-Quaternary lake sediment in this region.


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