Postglacial changes in chironomid communities and inferred climate near treeline at Mount Stoyoma, Cascade Mountains, southwestern British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract

Analysis of the distributions of chironomid (midge) and other dipteran subfossils from two high elevation lake sediment cores in the Cascade Mountains reveals changes in midge communities and inferred climate since the late-glacial. Cabin Lake and 3M Pond are located near treeline in the subalpine Engelmann Spruce/Subalpine Fir biogeoclimatic zone of British Columbia. In Cabin Lake, chironomid head capsule assemblages depict a typical late-glacial community, and three distinct Holocene communities. In Cabin Lake, the late-glacial community is composed of cold-stenothermous taxa dominated by Stictochironomus, Mesocricotopus, Heterotrissocladius, Parakiefferiella nigra, Protanypus and Paracladius, whereas warm water midges are absent or rare, indicating cold conditions. A late-glacial chironomid community was not found in 3M Pond. In both lakes the early Holocene is dominated by a diverse warm-adapted assemblage, corresponding to the warm climatic conditions of the xerothermic period. Cabin Lake's mid-Holocene zone records a decrease in relative abundance of the warm water types and is accompanied by an increase in cold-stenotherms. At 3M Pond this period shows a dramatic loss in diversity of warm-adapted taxa, as the temperate genus Dicrotendipes dominates. This zone corresponds to Hebda's (1995) mesothermic period. Further cooling in the late Holocene (to modern conditions) is inferred from continued reduction of warm water midges and persistence (at Cabin Lake) or appearance (at 3M Pond) of a cold-stenothermal community. This late Holocene cooling is similar in timing to Neoglacial advances in the Coast, Cascade, and Rocky Mountains of southern British Columbia. Similarities in the timing of chironomid and vegetation community changes at these high elevation sites, along with the more rapid response time of the Chironomidae, support the sensitivity of midges to postglacial climatic change at high elevation sites.

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