Publications

Research specifically focused on human impacts on lake and river ecosystems; Long-term ecological change; Ecosystem resilience and tipping points.

Jesse Vermaire

Associate Professor, Institute for Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences and DGES Carleton

Summary

Keywords: Aquatic ecology, limnology, paleolimnology, paleoecology, watershed conservation, ecosystem ecology, climate change, eutrophication

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List of Publications

Emerging threats and persistent conservation challenges for freshwater biodiversity [See full document]

Publication Year:

2019

Authors:

Andrea J Reid,

Andrew K Carlson, Irena F Creed,

Erika J Eliason,

Peter A Gell,

Pieter TJ Johnson, Karen A Kidd,

Tyson J MacCormack,

Julian D Olden,

Steve J Ormerod,

John P Smol,

William W Taylor,

Klement Tockner,

Jesse C Vermaire,

David Dudgeon, &

Steven J Cooke

In the 12 years since Dudgeon et al. (2006) reviewed major pressures on freshwater ecosystems, the biodiversity crisis in the world’s lakes, reservoirs, rivers, streams and wetlands has deepened. While lakes, reservoirs and rivers cover only 2.3% of the Earth’s surface, these ecosystems host at least 9.5% of the Earth’s described animal species. Furthermore, using the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Planet Index, freshwater population declines (83% between 1970 and 2014) continue to outpace contemporaneous declines in marine or terrestrial systems. The Anthropocene has brought multiple new and varied threats that disproportionately impact freshwater systems. We document 12 emerging threats to freshwater biodiversity that are either entirely new since 2006 or have since intensified: (i) changing climates; (ii) e-commerce and invasions; (iii) infectious diseases; (iv) harmful algal blooms; (v) expanding hydropower; (vi) emerging contaminants; (vii) engineered nanomaterials; (viii) microplastic pollution; (ix) light and noise; (x) freshwater salinisation; (xi) declining calcium; and (xii) cumulative stressors. Effects are evidenced for amphibians, fishes, invertebrates, microbes, plants, turtles and waterbirds, with potential for ecosystem-level changes through bottom-up and top-down processes. In our highly uncertain future, the net effects of these threats raise serious concerns for freshwater ecosystems. However, we also highlight opportunities for conservation gains as a result of novel management tools (e.g. environmental flows, environmental DNA) and specific conservation-oriented actions (e.g. dam removal, habitat protection policies, managed relocation of species) that have been met with varying levels of success. Moving forward, we advocate hybrid approaches that manage fresh waters as crucial ecosystems for human life support as well as essential hotspots of biodiversity and ecological function. Efforts to reverse global trends in freshwater degradation now depend on bridging an immense gap between the aspirations of conservation biologists and the accelerating rate of species endangerment.

Microplastic abundance and distribution in the open water and sediment of the Ottawa River, Canada, and its tributaries [See full document]

Publication Year:

2017

Authors:

Jesse C. Vermaire,

Carrington Pomeroy,

Sofia M. Herczegh,

Owen Haggart, &

Meaghan Murphy

Microplastic pollution is prevalent in the Ottawa River, with all open water samples (n = 62) and sediment samples (n = 10) containing microplastics. The median microplastic concentration of nearshore 100 L water samples was 0.1 fragments per L (ranged between 0.05 and 0.24 fragments per L). The larger volume Manta trawls samples taken in the middle of the Ottawa River had an overall mean concentration of plastics of 1.35 fragments per m3. Plastic concentrations were significantly higher downstream of the wastewater treatment plant (1.99 fragments per m3) compared with upstream of the effluent output (0.71 fragments per m3), suggesting that the effluent plume is a pathway for plastic pollution to the Ottawa River. The mean concentration of microplastic fragments recovered in the sediment samples was 0.22 fragments per g dry weight. The abundance of microplastics in the sediment was not significantly related to the mean particle size or the organic content of the sediment. The most common form of plastic particles found was microfibers. These made up between 70% and 100% of all plastic particles observed, although plastic microbeads and secondary plastic fragments were also recovered.

Arctic climate warming and sea ice declines lead to increased storm surge activity [See full document]

Publication Year:

2013

Authors:

Jesse C. Vermaire,

Michael F. J. Pisaric,

Joshua R. Thienpont,

Colin J. Courtney Mustaphi,

Steven V. Kokelj, &

John P. Smol

The combined effects of climate warming (i.e., increased storminess, reduced sea ice extent, and rising sea levels) make low‐lying Arctic coastal regions particularly susceptible to storm surges. The Mackenzie Delta, a biologically significant and resource‐rich region in northwestern Canada, is particularly vulnerable to flooding by storm surges. To properly manage the consequences of climate warming for Arctic residents, infrastructure, and ecosystems, a better understanding of the influence of climate change on storm surge activity is required. Here we use particle size analysis of lake sediment records to show that the occurrence and magnitude of storm surges in the outer Mackenzie Delta are significantly related to temperature and that the frequency and intensity of storm surges is increasing. Our results demonstrate the effects of changing climate on storm surge activity and provide a cautionary example of the threat of inundation to low‐lying Arctic coastal environments under future climate warming scenarios.

Garbage in guano? Microplastic debris found in faecal precursors of seabirds known to ingest plastics [See full document]

Publication Year:

2018

Authors:

Jennifer F Provencher,

Jesse C Vermaire,

Stephanie Avery-Gomm,

Birgit M Braune, &

Mark L Mallory

Plastic pollution is global environmental contaminant. Plastic particulates break down into smaller fragments in the environment, and these small pieces are now commonly found to be ingested by animals. To date, most plastic ingestion studies have focused on assessing retained plastics or regurgitated plastics, but it is likely that animals also excrete plastic and other debris items. We examined the terminal portion of the gastrointestinal tract of a seabird known to commonly ingest plastics, the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), to determine if seabirds excrete microplastics and other debris via their guano. We also examine how guano collections may be used as an indicator of retained plastics. The frequency of occurrence of microplastics did not correlate between the gut and faecal precursor samples, but there was a positive relationship between the number of pieces of plastics in the gut and the number of microplastics in the guano. Our findings suggest that seabirds are acting as vectors of microplastics and debris in the marine environment where their guano accumulates around their colonies. This transport of microplastics and debris by colonial seabirds needs to be further examined, and considered when designing environmental monitoring for microplastics in regions where seabird colonies are found.

Empirical models for describing recent sedimentation rates in lakes distributed across broad spatial scales [See full document]

Publication Year:

2008

Authors:

Soren Brothers,

Jesse C. Vermaire, &

Irene Gregory-Eaves

Over the last 20 years there has been a surge of interest in paleolimnology and as a result a large accumulation of lake sedimentation records. This emerging archive has allowed us to develop empirical models to describe which variables explain significant variation in sedimentation rates over the past ∼150 years across large spatial scales. We hypothesized that latitude would be a significant explanatory variable of profundal zone lake sedimentation rates across a temperate to polar gradient. We further hypothesized that along a more longitudinally-constrained dataset (i.e. east coast of North America), latitude would explain a greater proportion of the variance. To test these hypotheses, we collated data from 125 natural, average-sized lakes (with surface area <500 km2) by recording authors’ estimates of sedimentation rates (measured as mm/year) or by digitizing recent sediment profiles and calculating sedimentation rates over the past ∼150 years. We found that, at both scales, latitude was the strongest predictor of lake sedimentation rates (full dataset: r2 = 0.28, P = 0.001, n = 125; east coast dataset: r2 = 0.58, P < 0.001, n = 43). By conducting a multiple linear regression analysis, we found that 70% of the variance in sedimentation rates from the east coast transect was explained by latitude and elevation alone. This latter model is of sufficient strength that it is a robust predictive tool. Given that climate and land-use strongly co-vary with latitude and that both of these factors have previously been shown to influence lake sedimentation rates, it appears that latitude is a surrogate measure for climate and land-use changes. We also show support for land-use as an important variable influencing sedimentation rates by demonstrating large increases in recent versus Holocene accumulation rates. These results indicate that it is possible to make generalizations about sedimentation rates across broad spatial scales with even limited geographic data.

A late Quaternary paleotemperature record from Hanging Lake, northern Yukon Territory, eastern Beringia [See full document]

Publication Year:

2009

 

Authors:

Joshua Kurek,

Les C Cwynar, & 

Jesse C Vermaire

The late Quaternary paleoclimate of eastern Beringia has primarily been studied by drawing qualitative inferences from vegetation shifts. To quantitatively reconstruct summer temperatures, we analyzed lake sediments for fossil chironomids, and additionally we analyzed the sediments for fossil pollen and organic carbon content. A comparison with the δ18O record from Greenland indicates that the general climatic development of the region throughout the last glaciation–Holocene transition differed from that of the North Atlantic region. Between ∼ 17 and 15 ka, mean July air temperature was on average 5°C colder than modern, albeit a period of near-modern temperature at ∼ 16.5 ka. Total pollen accumulation rates ranged between ∼ 180 and 1200 grains cm− 2 yr− 1. At ∼ 15 ka, approximately coeval with the Bølling interstadial, temperatures again reached modern values. At ∼ 14 ka, nearly 1000 yr after warming began, Betula pollen percentages increased substantially and mark the transition to shrub-dominated pollen contributors. Chironomid-based inferences suggest no evidence of the Younger Dryas stade and only subtle evidence of an early Holocene thermal maximum, as temperatures from ∼ 15 ka to the late Holocene were relatively stable. The most recognizable climatic oscillation of the Holocene occurred from ∼ 4.5 to 2 ka.

Reconstructing changes in macrophyte cover in lakes across the northeastern United States based on sedimentary diatom assemblages [See full document]

Publication Year:

2008

Authors:

Jesse C. Vermaire &

Irene Gregory-Eaves

Macrophytes are a critical component of lake ecosystems affecting nutrient and contaminant cycling, food web structure, and lake biodiversity. The long-term (decades to centuries) dynamics of macrophyte cover are, however, poorly understood and no quantitative estimates exist for pre-industrial (pre-1850) macrophyte cover in northeastern North America. Using a 215 lake dataset, we tested if surface sediment diatom assemblages significantly differed among lakes that have sparse (<10% cover; group 1), moderate (10–40% cover; group 2) or extensive (>40% cover; group 3) macrophyte cover. Analysis of similarity indicated that the diatom assemblages of these a priori groups of macrophyte cover were significantly different from one another (i.e., difference between: groups 1 and 3, R statistic = 0.31, P < 0.001; groups 1 and 2, R statistic = 0.049, P < 0.01; groups 3 and 2, R statistic = 0.112, P < 0.001). We then developed an inference model for macrophyte cover from lakes classified as sparse or extensive cover (145 lakes) based on the surface sediment diatom assemblages, and applied this model using the top-bottom paleolimnological approach (i.e., comparison of recent sediments to pre-disturbance sediments). We used the second axis of our correspondence analysis, which significantly divided sparse and extensive macrophyte cover sites, as the independent variable in a logistic regression to predict macrophyte cover as either sparse or extensive. Cross validation, using 48 randomly chosen sites that were excluded from model development, indicated that our model accurately predicts macrophyte cover 79% of the time (r 2 = 0.32, P < 0.001). When applied to the top and bottom sediment samples, our model predicted that 12.5% of natural lakes and 22.4% of reservoirs in the dataset have undergone a ≥30% change in macrophyte cover. For the sites with an inferred change in macrophyte cover, the majority of natural lakes (64.3%) increased in cover, while the majority of reservoirs (87.5%) decreased in macrophyte cover. This study demonstrates that surface sediment diatom assemblages from profundal zones differ in lakes based on their macrophyte cover and that diatoms are useful indicators for quantitatively reconstructing changes in macrophyte cover.

Middle to late Holocene chironomid-inferred July temperatures for the central Northwest Territories, Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2014

Authors:

Lindsay M. Upiter,

Jesse C. Vermaire,

R. Timothy Patterson,

Carley A. Crann,

Jennifer M. Galloway,

Andrew L. Macumber,

Lisa A. Neville,

Graeme T. Swindles, Hendrik Falck,

Helen M. Roe, &

Michael F. J. Pisaric

We analyzed subfossil chironomids, sediment organic matter and sediment particle size data from a 1.11-m-long freeze core collected from Carleton Lake (unofficial name), located approximately 120 km north of the modern treeline. This well-dated core spans the last ca. 6,500 years. Two chironomid transfer functions were applied to infer mean July air temperatures. Our results indicated that the chironomid-inferred temperatures from this lake sediment record did not pass a significance test, suggesting that other factors in addition to temperature may have been important in structuring the chironomid community through time. Although not statistically significant, the chironomid-inferred temperatures from this site do follow a familiar pattern, with highest inferred temperatures occurring during the Holocene Thermal Maximum (~6–4 cal kyr BP), followed by a long-term cooling trend, which is reversed during the last 600 years. The largest change in the chironomid assemblage, which occurred between ca. 4,600 and 3,900 cal yr BP is possibly related to the well-documented northward advance and subsequent retreat of treeline in this region.

Midge-inferred temperature reconstructions and vegetation change over the last ~15,000 years from Trout Lake, northern Yukon Territory, eastern Beringia [See full document]

Publication Year:

2012

Authors:

Fonya Irvine,

Les C. Cwynar,

Jesse C. Vermaire, & 

Andrew B. H. Rees

Two cores from Trout Lake, northern Yukon, yielded quantitative estimates of summer air temperatures using fossil midge larvae. Warming began around 14,400 cal yr BP, with inferred mean July air temperatures reaching values warmer than present by 12,800 cal yr BP. A 1 °C cooling from 12,200 to 11,200 cal yr BP closely corresponds with the Younger Dryas chronozone. A broad temperature maximum occurred between 10,800 and 9,800 cal yr BP, with mean July air temperature about 2.2 °C warmer than present. This represents an early Holocene thermal maximum and coincides with increased organic content of the sediment. Both the shallow- and deep-water cores show similar temperature trends for their overlapping periods. The inferred rise in mean July air temperature at 14,200 cal yr BP coincides with a shift in vegetation from an herb- to shrub-dominated landscape. In contrast, the increase in Alnus pollen at 6,400 cal yr BP does not coincide with a change in temperature, but may be a response to a rise in precipitation.

The influence of submerged macrophytes on sedimentary diatom assemblages [See full document]

Publication Year:

2011

 

Authors:

Jesse C. Vermaire, 

Yves T. Prairie, & 

Irene Gregory‐Eaves

Submerged macrophytes are a central component of lake ecosystems; however, little is known regarding their long‐term response to environmental change. We have examined the potential of diatoms as indicators of past macrophyte biomass. We first sampled periphyton to determine whether habitat was a predictor of diatom assemblage. We then sampled 41 lakes in Quebec, Canada, to evaluate whether whole‐lake submerged macrophyte biomass (BiomEpiV) influenced surface sediment diatom assemblages. A multivariate regression tree (MRT) was used to construct a semiquantitative model to reconstruct past macrophyte biomass. We determined that periphytic diatom assemblages on macrophytes were significantly different from those on wood and rocks (ANOSIM R = 0.63, P < 0.01). A redundancy analysis (RDA) of the 41‐lake data set identified BiomEpiV as a significant (P < 0.05) variable in structuring sedimentary diatom assemblages. The MRT analysis classified the lakes into three groups. These groups were (A) high‐macrophyte, nutrient‐limited lakes (BiomEpiV ≥525 μg · L−1; total phosphorus [TP] <35 μg · L−1; 23 lakes); (B) low‐macrophyte, nutrient‐limited lakes (BiomEpiV <525 μg · L−1; TP <35 μg · L−1; 12 lakes); and (C) eutrophic lakes (TP ≥35 μg · L−1; six lakes). A semiquantitative model correctly predicted the MRT group of the lake 71% of the time (P < 0.001). These results suggest that submerged macrophytes have a significant influence on diatom community structure and that sedimentary diatom assemblages can be used to infer past macrophyte abundance.

Declines in littoral species richness across both spatial and temporal nutrient gradients: a palaeolimnological study of two taxonomic groups [See full document]

Publication Year:

2012

Authors:

Katherine Velghe, 

Jesse C. Vermaire, & Irene Gregory-Eaves

Summary
1. Using a palaeolimnological approach in shallow lakes, we quantified the species richness responses of diatoms and Cladocera to phosphorus enrichment. We also examined differences in species richness responses between littoral and pelagic assemblages of our focal communities. To address both spatial and temporal relationships, our study includes an analysis of both surface sediments from 40 lakes and of a lake sediment record spanning c. 120 years. The objective of our study was to determine whether similar species richness patterns occurred across trophic levels, as well as along spatial and temporal gradients.

2. We found that both diatom and Cladocera species richness estimates significantly declined with increasing phosphorus across space and through time. When the assemblages were subdivided according to known habitat preferences, littoral biodiversity maintained a negative trend, whereas pelagic species richness tended to show no relationship with phosphorus.

3. Negative productivity–diversity patterns have been observed across almost all palaeolimnological studies that span large productivity gradients. This congruence in patterns is most likely due to the similarity in data collection methods and in focal communities studied. The contrasting responses between littoral and pelagic assemblages may be explained by the differences in physical habitat and the pool of taxa in each of these environments. Consistent with the literature, we found statistical support for the idea that littoral diversity declines could be explained by an interaction between macrophytes and nutrients along strong trophic gradients. The general lack of a diversity response in our pelagic assemblages could be attributable to the limited pool of subfossil taxa. The response of the pelagic diatom could also be related to their broad range of nutrient tolerances.

4. The observed negative response of species richness to phosphorus enrichment, particularly in the littoral assemblages, has implications for ecosystems functioning because communities with reduced biodiversity often are less resilient to anthropogenic change.

Environmental studies and environmental science today: inevitable mission creep and integration in action-oriented transdisciplinary areas of inquiry, training and practice [See full document]

Publication Year:

2015

Authors:

Steven J. Cooke, &

Jesse C. Vermaire

Since the 1970s when the first “named” environmental studies (ENST) and environmental science (ENSC) training programs emerged to tackle the growing crises facing the natural world and humanity, those two areas of inquiry and practice have remained rather distinct. However, as the complexity of environmental problems grows, it is apparent that transdisciplinary perspectives and teams represent the only means to identify and implement effective solutions. Despite the fact that ENST and ENSC programs often exist at the same institution, they tend to be housed in different faculties (i.e. ENST is often in humanities and social sciences, whereas ENSC is often in science). We argue that, as the demand for broadly trained highly qualified personnel able to work in all aspects of problem identification and solutions increases, neither ENST nor ENSC on their own is sufficient to achieve desirable policy and management outcomes. Those in ENST increasingly are expected to be competent in evidence assimilation and analysis, while those in ENSC are expected to recognize the value of the human dimension and embrace their role as knowledge brokers well versed in policy and management. The days of distinct ENST and ENSC programs are numbered as we re-envision how we think about, teach and practice ENST and ENSC. Failure to integrate these areas of inquiry will retard their collective ability to achieve the outcomes that are so needed in the face of dramatic human-induced rapid environmental change. The inherent overlap of ENST and ENSC must be embraced which means modulating our thinking, training and practice related to the environment.

The Canadian context for evidence-based conservation and environmental management [See full document]

Publication Year:

2016

Authors:

Steven J. Cooke,

Jake C. Rice,

Kent A. Prior,

Robin Bloom,

Olaf Jensen,

David R. Browne,

Lisa A. Donaldson,

Joseph R. Bennett,

Jesse C. Vermaire, &

Graeme Auld

Canada has strong institutional capacity for science-based decision-making related to natural resource conservation and environmental management. Yet, the concept of using systematic reviews (conducted in accordance with established guidelines) to support evidence-based conservation and environmental management in Canada is in its infancy. Here we discuss the Canadian context for implementing more rigorous evidence-based approaches using systematic reviews. Of particular relevance to Canada is its vast size, broad diversity of ecosystems and heavy economic reliance on natural resources that vary widely in the type and scale of their environmental effects. These factors result in a wide variety of environmental monitoring needs over an extensive area that pose challenges to the scientific community charged with overseeing wise use of the environment. In addition, there are diverse and engaged user groups (e.g., hunters, trappers, fishers, bird watchers, foresters) and indigenous peoples that have constitutional rights to their natural resources. Traditional environmental knowledge is a complementary source of evidence in the Canadian environmental impact assessment process and therefore must be a part of evidence synthesis. Systematic reviews are not intended to replace local field studies, but rather have the opportunity to draw upon a broader suite of evidence that can be interfaced with local perspectives. The existing institutional structures in Canada could easily incorporate systematic reviews into their science advice and decision-making frameworks but to date, there are few examples of where this has occurred. Drawing on the expertise of a growing global collaboration for environmental evidence synthesis, Canadian institutions (federal, provincial and NGO) are poised to more broadly incorporate systematic reviews once their benefits are fully realized and the capacity to undertake such systematic reviews is fully developed. Systematic reviews offer a consolidated view of the available scientific literature on a given question. The results may offer significant value when working with stakeholders and decision makers contributing other sources of information to the question. For example, mechanisms to capture and integrate scientific knowledge with stakeholder and traditional knowledge may benefit from the scientific sources being filtered, interpreted and summarized for discussion. In other cases, where timeframes for decision making preclude formal systematic reviews, opportunities for more rapid evidence synthesis methods will be needed before the concept will be fully embraced.

Citizen science sampling programs as a technique for monitoring microplastic pollution: results, lessons learned and recommendations for working with volunteers for monitoring plastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems [See full document]

Publication Year:

2019

Authors:

Shaun A. Forrest,

Larissa Holman,

Meaghan Murphy, &

Jesse C. Vermaire

A citizen science microplastic monitoring method was developed to engage the public and quantify microplastic contamination at various sites along an approximately 550 km length of the Ottawa River from Lake Temiskaming to Hawkesbury, Ontario, Canada. The volunteers filtered 100 L of river water through a 100-μm mesh at their desired location along the Ottawa River. All but one of the river samples (n = 43) contained microplastics, with the vast majority of microplastics identified as microfibers. Microplastic concentrations ranged from 0.02 to 0.41 microplastic pieces per litre. We noted numerous advantages in working with citizen scientists including actively engaging citizens in the research, ease of recruiting volunteers within the established Ottawa Riverkeeper network, and expanded spatial coverage at minimal additional costs. Despite these important advantages, there are some important considerations with citizen scientist sampling including the rare events where volunteers mislabelled sample sheets (e.g. labelling as control instead of river sample) and the relatively low volume of water (100 L) that the volunteers could easily sample using our methodology. Recommendations for future citizen science projects for freshwater microplastic research include utilising an established and engaged network, running both field and lab control samples (blanks) to obtain estimates of contamination with microplastic fibres, and increasing the amount of water filtered to obtain more reliable estimates of microplastic pollution in our freshwater ecosystems.

Phosphorus and land-use changes are significant drivers of cladoceran community composition and diversity: an analysis over spatial and temporal scales [See full document]

Publication Year:

2010

Authors:

Marc Richard Albert, 

Guangjie Chen,

Graham K. MacDonald, 

Jesse C. Vermaire,

Elena M. Bennett, &

Irene Gregory-Eaves

We conducted paleolimnological studies over spatial and temporal gradients to define the responses of subfossil cladoceran community composition and diversity to changes in land use and phosphorus concentrations in shallow lakes. We predicted that watershed disturbance by humans, through its impact on water quality, would explain significant variation in cladoceran diversity and composition. Across lakes, water-column total phosphorus concentration was a significant (p < 0.05) predictor of the subfossil cladoceran community composition. Chydorid diversity was also found to be related significantly to phosphorus concentration (r = –0.55, p < 0.05) and the proportion of disturbed land in the watershed (r = –0.47, p < 0.05). However, net load of phosphorus to the watershed rather than proportion of watershed disturbance was a significant predictor of chydorid diversity (r = –0.86, p < 0.001) in our temporal analysis of an eutrophying lake. Given that phosphorus loading to surface waters is often related to phosphorus concentrations in soils, we suggest that the net phosphorus load to the watershed is a more sensitive metric of land-use change and necessary for detecting ecological responses in time series data.

Legacy arsenic pollution of lakes near Cobalt, Ontario, Canada: arsenic in lake water and sediment remains elevated nearly a century after mining activity has ceased [See full document]

Publication Year:

2018

Authors:

Dale D. Sprague & Jesse C. Vermaire

Century old mine tailings in the Cobalt and Silver Center areas are widely dispersed throughout the terrestrial and aquatic environments and contain high concentrations of arsenic. Arsenic concentrations were found to be as high as 972 μg/L in surface waters and 10,800 mg/kg in lake sediment. The mean values for arsenic in surface waters and sediment from 9 lakes directly influenced by mining activity were 431 μg/L and 1704 mg/kg, respectively, whereas in the 12 control lakes with no mining activity in their catchment had mean values of 2.2 μg/L and 11 mg/kg in their water and sediment, respectively. Lakes impacted by downstream tailing migration (n = 4) were also assessed and had intermediate concentrations of arsenic. Principal component analysis identified contaminated lakes as having different geochemical signatures than control lakes but lake sediment that was sampled below tailings in contaminated lakes, deposited pre-mining, can resemble the geochemistry of those found in control lakes. Arsenic concentrations in these samples ranged from 4.4 to 185 mg/kg, which can be considered reasonable background as these areas contained abundant mineral deposits that could naturally elevate background concentrations. Even though background concentrations are naturally elevated, the presence of arsenic-rich tailings in these lakes has prevented any natural recovery from occurring. Fe-Mn oxides at the water-sediment interface perpetually scavenge arsenic from buried tailings below and from contaminated surface waters that cause arsenic concentrations to remain enriched in the upper sediments even after tailings have been buried by lake sediment. This process has prevented recovery of the lake ecosystems even after nearly a century without mining.

Detecting the influence of secondary environmental gradients on chironomid-inferred paleotemperature reconstructions in northern North America [See full document]

Publication Year:

2015

Authors:

AS Medeiros,

K Gajewski,

DF Porinchu,

JC Vermaire, &

BB Wolfe

We examine the influence of multiple environmental factors on quantitative reconstructions of past climate that are based on conventional transfer function approaches using subfossil midge remains preserved in lake sediments. Chironomid assemblages from the uppermost sediments of 366 lakes spanning northern North America were compared to environmental parameters using direct gradient analysis. While temperature expectedly explained the largest amount of variation in the chironomid assemblages, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) accounted for significant amounts of the remaining variance. By constraining chironomid assemblages to mean-July air temperature (JulyT), we found a cluster of 70 lakes that were orthogonal to the primary temperature gradient in ordination. These lakes tended to be cold with higher DOC and TKN concentrations, yet had chironomid assemblages that were similar to the assemblages found in less productive, warmer lakes. In order to examine how secondary gradients affected paleotemperature reconstructions, three chironomid-based transfer function models were generated: a full dataset model (all 366 lakes), a reduced temperature-constrained model (296 lakes), and a reduced secondary-constrained model (70 lakes). Application of these models to four previously published Holocene paleotemperature reconstructions were used to distinguish the influence of temperature versus secondary-gradient effects. While unproductive Arctic lake paleotemperature reconstructions were found to be robust, reconstructions for two lakes in the boreal-tundra ecotone suggest secondary gradients influenced parts of their records. We recommend that passive core trajectory analysis upon our expansive surface-sediment calibration set provides a means to assess the veracity of paleotemperature reconstructions and potential influence of secondary gradients.

Diatom-inferred decline of macrophyte abundance in lakes of southern Quebec, Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2012

Authors:

Jesse C. Vermaire,

Yves T. Prairie, &

Irene Gregory-Eaves

Submerged macrophytes play a central role in lake ecosystem functioning; however, their long-term dynamics are poorly understood. We have used the paleolimnological top–bottom approach to reconstruct changes in whole-lake macrophyte biomass between predisturbance and present-day conditions in 37 southern Quebec lakes. Estimates of whole-lake macrophyte biomass were produced using a diatom-based multivariate regression tree model (MRT) and modern analogue approach. Both approaches indicated an overall pattern of declining macrophyte abundance in the region. Based on MRT analysis, 80% of study lakes were classified as historically being in the macrophyte-dominated state, but now only 43% of the lakes are currently in this state. The lakes that shifted MRT group were found to have significantly (p = 0.03) greater building densities in their catchments compared with lakes that did not shift state. These results suggest that human impacts, primarily nutrient inputs and water level fluctuations, have played a role in reducing macrophyte abundance in southern Quebec lakes. Because submerged macrophyte beds help stabilize lake ecosystems and act as a phosphorus sink, a reduction in whole-lake macrophyte biomass could make lake ecosystems more susceptible to eutrophication.

A revised late-Quaternary vegetation history of the unglaciated southwestern Yukon Territory, Canada, from Antifreeze and Eikland ponds [See full document]

Publication Year:

2010

Authors:

Jesse C. Vermaire &

Les C. Cwynar

Antifreeze Pond was thought to contain the oldest record of continuous environmental change in the southwestern Yukon. We have revised the original interpretation of the vegetation history of Antifreeze Pond and this region based on new pollen, stomate, and macrofossil analysis, along with 38 new accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dates from Antifreeze Pond and nearby Eikland Pond. Although the overall pattern of vegetation change is similar to the previously published Antifreeze Pond record, our new analysis indicates that the timing of the major vegetation shifts is substantially different, particularly during the late-glacial and early Holocene periods (from ∼17 000 – 9000 cal years BP). The original Antifreeze Pond record was thought to span a mid-Wisconsinan interstadial (>30 000 cal years BP) and the full-glacial period. Our results, however, indicate that the material of mid-Wisconsinan age was likely deposited by slumping around the pond making interpretation of the paleoenvironment difficult. Furthermore, our AMS 14C dates show that what was thought to be a full-glacial vegetation record is actually the vegetation history of the late-glacial period (ca. 17 000 – 11 000 cal years BP), which was a time of rapid sediment deposition into the ponds. The Eikland Pond record has an early Holocene Populus rise between ca. 11 000 – 8000 cal years BP that is not present in either the new or original Antifreeze Pond records. This new interpretation of the vegetation history should aid comparisons to other regional paleoenvironmental records.

Can we detect ecosystem critical transitions and signals of changing resilience from paleo‐ecological records? [See full document]

Publication Year:

2018

Authors:

Zofia E. Taranu, Stephen R. Carpenter, Victor Frossard,

Jean-Philippe Jenny,

Zoë Thomas,

Jesse C. Vermaire, &

Marie-Elodie Perga

Nonlinear responses to changing external pressures are increasingly studied in real‐world ecosystems. However, as many of the changes observed by ecologists extend beyond the monitoring record, the occurrence of critical transitions, where the system is pushed from one equilibrium state to another, remains difficult to detect. Paleo‐ecological records thus represent a unique opportunity to expand our temporal perspective to consider regime shifts and critical transitions, and whether such events are the exception rather than the rule. Yet, sediment core records can be affected by their own biases, such as sediment mixing or compression, with unknown consequences for the statistics commonly used to assess regime shifts, resilience, or critical transitions. To address this shortcoming, we developed a protocol to simulate paleolimnological records undergoing regime shifts or critical transitions to alternate states and tested, using both simulated and real core records, how mixing and compression affected our ability to detect past abrupt shifts. The smoothing that is built into paleolimnological data sets apparently interfered with the signal of rolling window indicators, especially autocorrelation. We thus turned to time‐varying autoregressions (online dynamic linear models, DLMs; and time‐varying autoregressive state‐space models, TVARSS) to evaluate the possibility of detecting regime shifts and critical transitions in simulated and real core records. For the real cores, we examined both varved (annually laminated sediments) and non‐varved cores, as the former have limited mixing issues. Our results show that state‐space models can be used to detect regime shifts and critical transitions in some paleolimnological data, especially when the signal‐to‐noise ratio is strong. However, if the records are noisy, the online DLM and TVARSS have limitations for detecting critical transitions in sediment records.

Determinants of fire activity during the last 3500 yr at a wildland–urban interface, Alberta, Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2016

Authors:

Emma L Davis,

Colin J Courtney Mustaphi,

Amber Gall,

Michael FJ Pisaric,

Jesse C Vermaire, & 

Katrina A Moser

Long-term records of wildfires and their controlling factors are important sources of information for informing land management practices. Here, dendrochronology and lake sediment analyses are used to develop a 3500-yr fire and vegetation history for a montane forest in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. The tree-ring record (AD 1771–2012) indicates that this region historically experienced a mixed-severity fire regime, and that effective fire suppression excluded widespread fire events from the study area during the 20th century. A sediment core collected from Little Trefoil Lake, located near the Jasper townsite, is analyzed for subfossil pollen and macroscopic charcoal (>150 μm). When comparing the tree-ring record to the 3500-yr record of sediment-derived fire events, only high-severity fires are represented in the charcoal record. Comparisons between the charcoal record and historical climate and pollen data indicate that climate and vegetation composition have been important controls on the fire regime for most of the last 3500 yr. Although fire frequency is presently within the historical range of variability, the fire return interval of the last 150 yr is longer than expected given modern climate and vegetation conditions, indicating that humans have become the main control on fire activity around Little Trefoil Lake.

Changes in submerged macrophyte abundance altered diatom and chironomid assemblages in a shallow lake [See full document]

Publication Year:

2013

Authors:

Jesse C Vermaire,

Marie-Hélène Greffard,

Émilie Saulnier-Talbot,

Irene Gregory-Eaves

Submerged macrophyte abundance strongly influences aquatic ecosystems. Because of a lack of monitoring data, however, the long-term dynamics of such aquatic plants are poorly understood. Increasingly, paleolimnologists use changes in subfossil algae and invertebrates to infer past submerged macrophyte dynamics and assess how human activities have altered this important primary producer component of aquatic ecosystems. We evaluated the sensitivity of subfossil diatom and chironomid assemblages to historically documented changes in macrophyte abundance in Chenango Lake, New York, USA, where macrophyte cover has been monitored since 1978. We also tested the ability of a semi-quantitative diatom-based macrophyte-abundance inference model to detect the pronounced macrophyte decline that was observed between 1993 and 2001. Diatoms responded to the recent loss of macrophytes, with a decline in the relative abundance of macrophyte-associated taxa. Estimates of macrophyte abundance fluctuated according to the diatom-based inference model. Chironomid changes were coherent with the diatom-inferred macrophyte zones. The largest shifts in subfossil assemblages occurred before the start of the monitoring record and coincided with construction of a ~4.3-m-high dam on the lake, which substantially expanded the littoral habitat. Even in heavily managed systems, large reductions in macrophyte abundance can be detected with paleolimnological approaches.

The effects of migration on ca. 100-year-old arsenic-rich mine tailings in Cobalt, Ontario, Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2016

Authors:

Dale D. Sprague,

Frederick A. Michel, &

Jesse C. Vermaire

Century old mine tailings in the Cobalt and Silver Center areas are widely dispersed throughout the terrestrial and aquatic environments and contain high concentrations of arsenic. Arsenic concentrations were found to be as high as 972 μg/L in surface waters and 10,800 mg/kg in lake sediment. The mean values for arsenic in surface waters and sediment from 9 lakes directly influenced by mining activity were 431 μg/L and 1704 mg/kg, respectively, whereas in the 12 control lakes with no mining activity in their catchment had mean values of 2.2 μg/L and 11 mg/kg in their water and sediment, respectively. Lakes impacted by downstream tailing migration (n = 4) were also assessed and had intermediate concentrations of arsenic. Principal component analysis identified contaminated lakes as having different geochemical signatures than control lakes but lake sediment that was sampled below tailings in contaminated lakes, deposited pre-mining, can resemble the geochemistry of those found in control lakes. Arsenic concentrations in these samples ranged from 4.4 to 185 mg/kg, which can be considered reasonable background as these areas contained abundant mineral deposits that could naturally elevate background concentrations. Even though background concentrations are naturally elevated, the presence of arsenic-rich tailings in these lakes has prevented any natural recovery from occurring. Fe-Mn oxides at the water-sediment interface perpetually scavenge arsenic from buried tailings below and from contaminated surface waters that cause arsenic concentrations to remain enriched in the upper sediments even after tailings have been buried by lake sediment. This process has prevented recovery of the lake ecosystems even after nearly a century without mining.

On the apparent failure of silt fences to protect freshwater ecosystems from sedimentation: A call for improvements in science, technology, training and compliance monitoring [See full document]

Publication Year:

2015

Authors:

SJ Cooke,

JM Chapman, &

JC Vermaire

Excessive sedimentation derived from anthropogenic activities is a main factor in habitat and biodiversity loss in freshwater ecosystems. To prevent offsite movement of soil particles, many environmental regulatory agencies mandate the use of perimeter silt fences. However, research regarding the efficiency of these devices in applied settings is lacking, and fences are often ineffective due to poor installation and maintenance. Here, we provide an overview of the current state of research regarding silt fences, address the current culture surrounding silt fence installation and maintenance, and provide several recommendations for improving the knowledge base related to silt fence effectiveness. It is clear that there is a need for integrated long-term (i.e., extending from prior to fence installation to well after fence removal) multi-disciplinary research with appropriate controls that evaluates the effectiveness of silt control fences. Through laboratory experiments, in silico modelling and field studies there are many factors that can be experimentally manipulated such as soil types (and sediment feed rate), precipitation regimes (and flow rate), season, slope, level of site disturbance, fence installation method, type of fence material, depth of toe, type and spacing of support structures, time since installation, level of inspection and maintenance, among others, that all require systematic evaluation. Doing so will inform the practice, as well as identify specific technical research needs, related to silt fence design and use. Moreover, what constitutes “proper” installation and maintenance is unclear, especially given regional- and site-level variation in precipitation, slope, and soil characteristics. Educating and empowering construction crews to be proactive in maintenance of silt fencing is needed given an apparent lack of compliance monitoring by regulatory agencies and the realities that the damage is almost instantaneous when silt fences fail. Our goal is not to dismiss silt fences as a potentially useful tool. Instead, we question the way they are currently being used and call for better science to determine what factors (in terms of fence design, installation and site-characteristics) influence effectiveness as well as better training for those that install, maintain and inspect such devices. We also encourage efforts to “look beyond the fence” to consider how silt fences can be combined with other sediment control strategies as part of an integrated sediment control program.

No plastics detected in seal (Phocidae) stomachs harvested in the eastern Canadian Arctic [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Madelaine PT Bourdages,

Jennifer F Provencher, 

Enooyaq Sudlovenick, 

Steven H Ferguson,

Brent G Young,

Nicolas Pelletier,

Michael JJ Murphy,

Alexa D'Addario,

Jesse C Vermaire

Through collaboration with Inuit hunters, we examined the stomach contents of 142 seals (ringed seals [Phoca hispida; n = 135], bearded seals [Erignathus barbatus; n = 6], and one harbour seal [Phoca vitualina; n = 1]) hunted between 2007 and 2019 from communities around Nunavut to assess whether seals in the eastern Canadian Arctic ingest and retain plastics in their stomachs. The seals in this study ranged from juveniles to adults of up to 30 years of age, and 55% of the seals were males. We found no evidence of plastic ingestion in any of the seals suggesting that seals in Nunavut are not accumulating plastics (>425 μm) in their stomachs. These data provide important baseline information for future plastic pollution monitoring programs in the Arctic.

Late Holocene climatic variability in Subarctic Canada: Insights from a high-resolution lake record from the central Northwest Territories [See full document]

Publication Year:

2018

Authors:

April S Dalton,

R Timothy Patterson,

Helen M Roe,

Andrew L Macumber, 

Graeme T Swindles,

Jennifer M Galloway,

Jesse C Vermaire,

Carley A Crann, & 

Hendrik Falck

We examined late Holocene (ca. 3300 yr BP to present-day) climate variability in the central Northwest Territories (Canadian Subarctic) using a diatom and sedimentological record from Danny’s Lake (63.48ºN, 112.54ºW), located 40 km southwest of the modern-day treeline. High-resolution sampling paired with a robust age model (25 radiocarbon dates) allowed for the examination of both lake hydroecological conditions (30-year intervals; diatoms) and sedimentological changes in the watershed (12-year intervals; grain size records) over the late Holocene. Time series analysis of key lake ecological indicators (diatom species Aulacoseira alpigena, Pseudostaurosira brevistriata and Achnanthidium minutissimum) and sedimentological parameters, reflective of catchment processes (coarse silt fraction), suggests significant intermittent variations in turbidity, pH and light penetration within the lake basin. In the diatom record, we observed discontinuous periodicities in the range of ca. 69, 88–100, 115–132, 141–188, 562, 750 and 900 years (>90% and >95% confidence intervals), whereas the coarse silt fraction was characterized by periodicities in the >901 and <61-year range (>95% confidence interval). Periodicities in the proxy data from the Danny’s Lake sediment core align with changes in total solar irradiance over the past ca. 3300 yr BP and we hypothesize a link to the Suess Cycle, Gleissberg Cycle and Pacific Decadal Oscillation via occasional inland propagation of shifting air masses over the Pacific Ocean. This research represents an important baseline study of the underlying causes of climate variability in the Canadian Subarctic and provides details on the long-term climate variability that has persisted in this region through the past three thousand years.

Synchronous changes in chironomid assemblages in two Arctic delta lake ecosystems after a major saltwater intrusion event [See full document]

Publication Year:

2015

Authors:

Joshua R Thienpont,

Courtney Steele,

Jesse C Vermaire,

Michael FJ Pisaric,

Steven V Kokelj, &

John P Smol

Low-lying Arctic coastal environments are threatened by marine storm surges, which are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity as a result of decreasing sea ice, rising sea levels and altered intensity and frequency of storm activity. The Mackenzie Delta of Canada’s Northwest Territories, a vast, low-lying wetland ecosystem, is particularly susceptible to such storm surges, because much of the outer alluvial plain is below 2-m elevation. A large storm-surge event in September 1999 flooded >13,000 ha of alluvial terrain and impacted the terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems of the region. Previous research on the limnological impacts of the storm surge recorded a shift from freshwater to brackish diatom taxa, and a change in cladoceran assemblages to more saline-tolerant species. We examined the remains of Chironomidae (Insecta, Diptera) in sediment cores from two lakes impacted by the 1999 saltwater inundation to determine whether the storm surge also affected benthic macroinvertebrate communities, which are particularly important to lake ecosystem function in Arctic regions. We observed an increase in the relative abundance of saline-tolerant taxa in the two impacted lakes, including Paratanytarsus and Cricotopus/Orthocladius, and decreases in saline-intolerant Sergentia and Corynocera oliveri-type, coincident with the 1999 storm. We observed no major assemblage changes after 1999 in a control lake located beyond the zone of inundation. The number of head capsules recovered from sediments of the impacted lakes increased after the 1999 storm, suggesting no negative impact on overall chironomid abundance as a result of the shift to brackish conditions. There has, however, been no recovery of the chironomid community to the pre-1999 composition. Earlier assemblage changes in both impacted lakes likely tracked regional climate warming in the region, known to have begun in the late nineteenth century.

The landscape-scale relationship between lake sediment geochemistry and catchment bedrock composition from the Temagami and Gowganda areas of Northeastern Ontario, Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2018

Authors:

Dale D Sprague &

Jesse C Vermaire

Lake sediments are integrators of watershed wide environmental information that includes bedrock geology, glacial overburden, vegetation, hydrology and land use. Lake sediments were collected from an area covering approximately 13,600 km2 from the Gowganda and Temagami regions to determine the geochemical background conditions representing different bedrock types. For the entire dataset, the median value for arsenic in lake sediment was 2.6 mg/kg, well within the prescribed limits indicating that the Canadian national objective for arsenic in sediments for the protection of aquatic life (17 mg/kg). Overall, the vast majority of lake sediment samples (97.2%) were below the 17 mg/kg Canadian objective for the protection of aquatic life, however, catchments with Nipissing Diabase had the highest background levels for arsenic (10 mg/kg) with some lakes ranging up to 30 mg/kg. The major geological controls influencing changes in lake sediment geochemistry were determined using random forest classification and principal component analysis (PCA). Random forest classification was able to identify which geological province the samples were derived from and the dominant rock types in the sample catchment with respectable accuracy. PCA revealed strong spatial relationships between lake sediment geochemistry and bedrock geology, particularly a strong relationship between Nipissing Diabase in the watershed of the lake and the cobalt-type mineralization indicator elements in the lake sediment including naturally higher levels of arsenic. Within the samples that exceeded regulatory standards, over half the samples that exceeded the regulatory objectives were located in watersheds that contained Nipissing Diabase in their catchment. This study demonstrates that unique geochemical assemblages can be associated with specific geological areas which is of interest to exploration geologists, for target generation and prospecting, and to environmental policy makers, for site-specific restoration targets.

Extrinsic vs. intrinsic regimes shifts in shallow lakes: Long-term response of cyanobacterial blooms to historical catchment phosphorus loading and climate warming [See full document]

Publication Year:

2017

Authors:

Jesse C Vermaire,

Zofia E Taranu,

Graham K MacDonald,

Katherine Velghe,

Elena M Bennett, &

Irene Gregory-Eaves

To evaluate the relative influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on ecosystem dynamics and regime shifts, we examined the algal response to historical catchment phosphorus loading from two shallow lakes located in Quebec, Canada. Roxton Pond is a eutrophic shallow lake with submerged macrophytes, and Lake Petit Saint-François (PSF) is a hypereutrophic shallow lake with no submerged macrophytes. Specifically, we inferred past cyanobacteria dynamics using pigment analyses, and tested whether the most parsimonious response model for cyanobacteria dynamics was congruent with the response model for phosphorus loading to the catchment. For both lakes, we found that an abrupt increase in cyanobacteria concentration lagged behind the initial increases in agricultural phosphorus use in the catchment as well as climate warming by over a decade. The delayed cyanobacterial response to these external drivers, observed in both lakes, suggests that intrinsic factors more than likely played important roles in ecosystem dynamics. These results show that cyanobacteria dominance in shallow lakes can be brought on by intrinsic responses to catchment phosphorus loading, climate warming, or both, but the timing depends on the antecedent conditions and the magnitude of the external forcing.

Lead contamination from gold mining in Yellowknife Bay (Northwest Territories), reconstructed using stable lead isotopes [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Nicolas Pelletier,

John Chételat,

Brian Cousens,

Shuangquang Zhang,

Dan Stepner,

Derek CG Muir,

Jesse C Vermaire

The contributions of contaminant sources are difficult to resolve in the sediment record using concentration gradients and flux reconstruction alone. In this study, we demonstrate that source partitioning using lead isotopes provide complementary and unique information to concentration gradients to evaluate point-source releases, transport, and recovery of metal mining pollution in the environment. We analyzed eight sediment cores, collected within 24 km of two gold mines, for Pb stable isotopes, Pb concentration, and sediment chronology. Stable Pb isotope ratios (206Pb/207Pb, 208Pb/204Pb) of mining ore were different from those of background (pre-disturbance) sediment, allowing the use of a quantitative mixing model. As previously reported for some Arctic lakes, Pb isotope ratios indicated negligible aerosol inputs to sediment from regional or long-range pollution sources, possibly related to low annual precipitation. Maximum recorded Pb flux at each site reached up to 63 mg m−2 yr−1 in the period corresponding to early years of mining when pollution mitigation measures were at a minimum (1950s–1960s). The maximum contribution of mining-derived Pb to these fluxes declined with distance from the mines from 92 ± 8% to 8 ± 4% at the farthest site. Mining-derived Pb was still present at the sediment surface within 9 km of Giant Mine more than ten years after mine closure (5–26 km, 95% confidence interval) and model estimates suggest it could be present for another ∼50–100 years. These results highlight the persistence of Pb pollution in freshwater sediment and the usefulness of Pb stable isotopes to quantify spatial and temporal trends of contamination from mining pollution, particularly as concentrations approach background.

Reconstructing macrophyte biomass dynamics in temperate lakes of northeastern North America using paleolimnology [See full document]

Publication Year:

2011

Authors:

Jesse C Vermaire

Submerged macrophytes are known to influence the structure and function of lake ecosystems. Despite their importance, long term monitoring records of macrophytes are rare and thus relatively little is know regarding how human activities have altered macrophyte abundance in lakes. Paleolimnological reconstructions may provide the best approach for examining long-term trends in macrophyte abundance. This thesis evaluates the potential of sedimentary diatoms as indicators of macrophyte abundance and examines the long-term effects of human activities on ecosystem stability and macrophyte abundance. A novel analysis of an existing dataset showed that there were significant differences in the sedimentary diatom assemblage of lakes with either high or low macrophyte cover, and that these differences in the diatom assemblages can be used to infer the macrophyte cover of lakes. I further examined the influence of macrophytes on diatoms using a continuous measure of whole-lake macrophyte biomass in 41 lakes located in southern Quebec, Canada, and showed that diatoms can be used to detect substantial changes in macrophyte abundance through time. An analysis of the effects of external phosphorus (P) inputs to the lake showed that increasing

The impacts of century-old, arsenic-rich mine tailings on multi-trophic level biological assemblages in lakes from Cobalt (Ontario, Canada) [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Amanda J Little,

Branaavan Sivarajah,

Christina Frendo,

Dale D Sprague,

John P Smol, &

Jesse C Vermaire

Silver mining in the early-1900s has left a legacy of arsenic-rich mine tailings around the town of Cobalt, in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Due to a lack of environmental control and regulations at that time, it was common for mines to dispose of their waste into adjacent lakes and land depressions, concentrating metals and metalloids in sensitive aquatic ecosystems. In order to examine what impacts, if any, these century-old, arsenic-rich mine tailings are having on present-day aquatic ecosystems, we sampled diatom assemblages in lake surface sediment in 24 lakes along a gradient of surface water arsenic contamination (0.4–972 μg/L). In addition, we examined sedimentary Cladocera and chironomid abundances and community composition, as well as open-water zooplankton communities and chlorophyll-a concentrations in10 of these study lakes along a gradient of arsenic contamination (0.9–1113 μg/L). Our results show that present-day arsenic concentration is not a significant driver of biotic community composition of the organisms we studied, but instead, that other variables such as lake depth and pH were more important in structuring assemblages. These results suggest that, while legacy contamination has greatly increased metal concentration beyond historical conditions, variability in lake-specific controls among the study lakes appear to be more important in the structuring of diatom, Cladocera, chironomidae, and zooplankton in these lakes.

Long-term environmental change and shifts in the aquatic plant community of Jones Creek, Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario, Canada based on plant macrofossil analysis [See full document]

Publication Year:

2018

Authors:

Ryan Boxem,

Emma L Davis,

Jesse C Vermaire

Plant macrofossils and pollen were analyzed from sediment cores to identify long-term changes in the aquatic plant community of Jones Creek, Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario, Canada. Six sediment cores were recovered from Jones Creek in February 2014. One complete core and five top/bottom samples were analyzed for plant macrofossil abundance and diversity. Sediment analysis and 210Pb dating confirmed a productive wetland throughout the core, dating back beyond 1883 AD. Jones Creek is currently dominated by thick stands of cattails, particularly the hybrid white cattail (Typha x glauca Godr). The relative abundance of Typha pollen began to increase in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, reaching a relative abundance of nearly 40% in the modern day surface sediment. Common macrofossils recovered from the sediment record included seeds of Carex, Schoenoplectus, Najas, and Eleocharis. There is evidence that community composition, as recorded by the macrofossil record, has shifted in Jones Creek in response to human activities. In particular there has been a reduction in sedge species between historical and present day conditions as the wetland shifted from a sedge dominated wet-meadow wetland to a cattail dominated system. The results of our study indicate that future restoration efforts should be directed towards reintroducing native sedge species that were present prior to major changes in land-use that occurred in the St. Lawrence region throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Late-Quaternary vegetation histories from Antifreeze and Eikland ponds, southwestern Yukon Territory, Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2005

Authors:

Jesse Clark Vermaire

Lake sediment records from Eikland and Antifreeze Ponds provide a history of environmental change for the past> 20,000 and> 30,000 calendar years before present (cal yr BP), respectively. Vegetation histories of these two sites are compared to test the theory that Beringia was a productive grassland during the last glacial maximum, and to determine the timing of the early Holocene thermal maximum in the southwestern Yukon. Additionally, an earlier Antifreeze Pond chronology has been revised, based on 26 AMS" C dates. Herbs dominated a Mid-Wisconsinan interstadial (> 30,000 cal yr BP); however, Betula shrub tundra with some Picea became established in the later portion. During the late-glacial period both sites show a rise in Brassicaceae and Liguliflorae indicating disturbed soil and open herb tundra vegetation. At roughly 1 1,000 cal yr BP Betula increased suggesting a warmer and wetter environment

Overcoming the concrete conquest of aquatic ecosystems [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Steven J Cooke,

Jordanna N Bergman,

Elizabeth A Nyboer, 

Andrea J Reid,

Austin J Gallagher,

Neil Hammerschlag,

Keith Van de Riet, & 

Jesse C Vermaire

In reflecting on the human domination of our planet in the Anthropocene, some have argued that concrete is among the most destructive materials created by humans. Here we explore this idea, specifically in the context of what we consider “the concrete conquest of aquatic ecosystems.” The ubiquitous use of concrete in transportation and building infrastructure has contributed to alterations in freshwater and coastal marine systems. Yet, in some cases, there are no appropriate alternative building materials such that concrete itself is confounded by its application. For example, as the foundation for most dams, concrete fragments rivers and channelizes streams, often creating unnatural systems, yet dams are necessary for hydropower generation and flood control with few alternative materials for construction. In riparian and coastal environments, concrete harbours and inland canal systems are often used to address erosion or reclaim areas for human development. Even when removed (e.g., dam removal, naturalization of shorelines), concrete dust is a major aquatic pollutant. Instances do exist, however, where concrete has been used to benefit aquatic ecosystems – such as the installation of fish passage facilities at barriers or the development of fish-friendly culverts – though even then, there is a movement towards nature-like fishways that avoid the use of harmful materials like concrete. There are also opportunities to achieve conservation gains in the development of seawalls that include more natural and complex features to benefit biota and allow for essential biogeochemical processes to occur in aquatic environments. There have been several innovations in recent years that increase the permeability of concrete, however these have limited application in an aquatic context (e.g., not relevant to dam construction or erosion control but may be relevant in stormwater management systems). We provide a brief overview of the history of concrete, discuss some of the direct and indirect effects of concrete on aquatic ecosystems, and encourage planners, engineers, developers, and regulators to work collaboratively to explore alternatives to concrete which benefit aquatic ecosystems and the services they offer. The status quo of concrete being the default construction material is failing aquatic ecosystems, so we recommend that efforts are made to explore alternative materials and if concrete must be used, to increase structural complexity to benefit biodiversity.

On “success” in applied environmental research—What is it, how can it be achieved, and how does one know when it has been achieved? [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Steven J Cooke,

Trina Rytwinski,

Jessica J Taylor,

Elizabeth A Nyboer,

Vivian M Nguyen,

Joseph R Bennett,

Nathan Young,

Susan Aitken,

Graeme Auld,

John-Francis Lane,

Kent A Prior,

Karen E Smokorowski,

Paul A Smith,

Aerin L Jacob,

David R Browne,

Jules M Blais,

Jeremy T Kerr,

Banu Ormeci,

Steven M Alexander,

Christopher R Burn,

Rachel T Buxton,

Diane M Orihel,

Jesse C Vermaire,

Dennis L Murray,

Patrice Simon,

Kate A Edwards,

John Clarke,

Marguerite A Xenopoulos,

Irene Gregory-Eaves,

Elena M Bennett, &

John P Smol

Environmental decision-makers and practitioners need and deserve high-quality environmental evidence for effective decision-making. We collate and share a suite of best practices for applied environmental researchers to support their capacity to inform such decision-making processes. This raises a number of important questions: What does “relevant” and informative evidence look like? How do we know when evidence has been applied? We assembled an experienced team of knowledge generators and users in Canada to identify insights that have emerged from their work and that could serve as guideposts for others who seek to apply environmental research to policy challenges. By reflecting on successes and failures, we define “success” in applied environmental science as respectfully conducted, partner-relevant research that is accessible, understandable, and shared and that can create opportunities for change (e.g., in policy, behaviour, management). Next, we generated a list of best practices for delivering “successful” applied environmental research. Our guidance emphasizes the importance of engaging early and often, in a respectful manner, with partners, generating high-quality, relevant research (which requires flexibility), having a plan for communicating and sharing outputs, and being transparent about uncertainties and limitations. Other important considerations include acknowledging partners for involvement and training early career researchers in applied partnership research. Finally, we generated a list of specific, measurable indicators for evaluating success, including quality and quantity of scientific outputs, the relationship with the partner(s), relevance and connectedness of the research, accessibility and availability of outputs to users, provision of outputs that are digestible and usable by different audiences, training and capacity building, and ultimate outcomes (e.g., including social, environmental, and economic outcomes, as well as partner satisfaction). We encourage those embarking on applied environmental research to consider embracing the strategies, to continuously reflect on progress toward shared research goals, and to be flexible. Doing so will increase the likelihood of delivering research that is “successful” and in doing so contribute to overcoming and addressing environmental issues and problems.

Breeding seabirds as vectors of microplastics from sea to land: Evidence from colonies in Arctic Canada [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Madelaine PT Bourdages,

Jennifer F Provencher,

Julia E Baak,

Mark L Mallory, & 

Jesse C Vermaire

The presence and persistence of microplastics in the environment is increasingly recognized, however, how they are distributed throughout environmental systems requires further understanding. Seabirds have been identified as vectors of chemical contaminants from marine to terrestrial environments, and studies have recently identified seabirds as possible vectors of plastic pollution in the marine environment. However, their role in the distribution of microplastic pollution in the Arctic has yet to be explored. We examined two species of seabirds known to ingest plastics: northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis; n = 27) and thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia; n = 30) as potential vectors for the transport of microplastics in and around breeding colonies. Our results indicated anthropogenic particles in the faecal precursors of both species. Twenty-four anthropogenic particles were found in the fulmar faecal precursor samples (M = 0.89, SD = 1.09; 23 fibres and one fragment), and 10 anthropogenic particles were found in the murre faecal precursor samples (M = 0.33, SD = 0.92; 5 fibres, 4 fragments, and one foam). Through the use of bird population surveys and the quantification of anthropogenic particles found in the faecal precursors of sampled seabirds from the same colony, we estimate that fulmars and murres may deposit between 3.3 (CIboot 1.9 × 106–4.9 × 106) and 45.5 (CIboot 9.1 × 106–91.9 × 106) million anthropogenic particles, respectively, per year into the environment during their breeding period at these colonies. These estimates indicate that migratory seabirds could be contributing to the distribution and local hotspots of microplastics in Arctic environments, however, they are still likely a relatively small source of plastic pollution in terms of mass in the environment and may not contribute as much as other reported sources such as atmospheric deposition in the Arctic.

Ecological consequences of shoreline armoring on littoral fish and benthic macroinvertebrate communities in an Eastern Ontario lake [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Auston D Chhor,

Daniel M Glassman,

John P Smol,

Jesse C Vermaire, & 

Steven J Cooke

Shoreline erosion in lakes is a pressing issue for many landowners, yet common erosion mitigation practices that involve armoring can alter littoral habitat and potentially diminish near-shore biodiversity. We studied the effects of two armoring methods (i.e., riprap, retaining walls) on habitat, taxonomic richness, relative abundance, and total abundance of fishes and benthic macroinvertebrates at shorelines on Big Rideau Lake in eastern Ontario, Canada. Snorkel surveys were conducted to assess aquatic habitat characteristics and fish diversity, and benthic infauna were sampled using kick-nets. Submergent and emergent macrophytes were more abundant at natural rocky shorelines compared to shorelines modified with riprap or retaining walls. Coarse woody debris was also more abundant at natural shorelines compared to riprap and retaining wall shorelines. Relative abundances of some fish species varied between shoreline types, but overall species richness and total abundance did not. Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) were more abundant at natural sites than armored sites. Conversely, Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris), Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), and baitfish from the family Cyprinidae were more abundant at both types of armored sites compared to natural sites. Taxonomic richness of benthic macroinvertebrates did not vary among shoreline types, however abundance of Amphipoda, Isopoda, Ephemeroptera, and Cladocera was greater at armored shorelines. These results suggest that human modification of shorelines is altering littoral ecosystems and potentially leading to shifts in the community structure of littoral nekton. More study is needed to fully understand the community level effects of shoreline erosion mitigation involving armoring in freshwater lakes and determine the effectiveness of alternative mitigation strategies that preserve natural habitat features.

Paleolimnological assessment of wildfire‐derived atmospheric deposition of trace metal (loid) s and major ions to subarctic lakes (Northwest Territories, Canada) [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Nicolas Pelletier,

John Chételat,

Olivier Blarquez, & 

Jesse C Vermaire

Wildfires release terrestrial elements to the atmosphere as aerosols, and these events are becoming more frequent and intense in the Arctic boreal forest as the climate is warming. We quantified the impact of atmospheric deposition of aerosols from local wildfires on metal(loid) fluxes using macroscopic charcoal accumulation rates, historical fire mapping, and element concentrations in 210Pb‐dated lake sediment from five subarctic lakes with small catchments. Lake sediments showed small but significant increases in fluxes (median = 5–10%) for 22 trace metals, metalloids, or major ions following fire events. The impact of wildfire aerosols on element fluxes was mostly due to short‐term (≤2 years) increasing sedimentation rate (6 ± 41% increase), whereas sediment element concentrations were not strongly impacted. Wildfire‐associated deposition to lake sediments was mainly composed of Ca, Al, Fe, Mg, K, Mn, and Na, which are major constituents of ash from burned biomass, but changes in sediment flux were greatest for Sb, As, Ni, Ba, Mn, Mo, and Sr compared to pre‐disturbance conditions. Compared to anthropogenic sources of pollution, wildfire‐associated atmospheric fluxes of metal contaminants to the lakes (e.g., Hg, Pb, As, Sb, and Cd) were low. This study provides quantitative estimates of wildfire impacts on atmospheric geochemical fluxes to subarctic lakes, which can be used for modeling larger‐scale impacts under changing fire regimes.

Microplastics in Freshwater Ecosystems [See full document]

Publication Year:

2020

Authors:

Shaun A Forrest,

Madelaine PT Bourdages, &

Jesse C Vermaire

Microplastics have been found in nearly all types of freshwater environments, including remote lakes and rivers. Although all types of microplastics have been reported in freshwater ecosystems, microfibers are typically the most common microplastic type, often accounting for more than 80% of all the plastic fragments recovered. Understanding of the sources, movement, and fate of microplastics in freshwater ecosystems is still an active area of research; however, wastewater treatment plants and stormwater runoff appear to be important conduits of microplastics to lakes and rivers. More research is required to determine the role of atmospheric fallout in loading microplastics to freshwater ecosystems. Field and laboratory techniques for sampling microplastics in freshwater environments closely follow protocols for marine systems, although the lower density of freshwater compared to salt water can alter results if certain plastic polymers sink in freshwater compared to salt water. Further research is required to increase our understanding of the sources, movement, and fate of microplastic in aquatic ecosystems and the potential impacts of microplastics on freshwater organisms. This research will greatly increase our understanding of the role of freshwaters in the global plastic cycle.

Does historical wildfire activity alter metal fluxes to northern lakes? [See full document]

Publication Year:

2017

Authors:

Nicolas Pelletier,

John Chetelat,

Jesse Clark Vermaire,

Mike Palmer,

Johanne Black,

Jody Pellisey,

Boyan Tracz, & 

Sjoerd van der Wielen

Current drought conditions in northwestern Canada are conducive to more frequent and severe wildfires that may mobilize mercury and other metals accumulated in soil and biomass. There is evidence that wildfires can remobilize and transport mercury within and outside catchments by atmospheric volatilization, particulate emissions and catchment soil erosion. However, the effect of fires on mercury fluxes to nearby lake sediments remains unclear. In this study, we use a combination of 10 dated lake sediment cores and four nearby ombrotrophic peatland cores to investigate the effects of wildfires on mercury fluxes to lake sediments. Lakes varying in catchment size and distance from recent fire events were sampled. Mercury concentrations in the environmental archives were measured, and macroscopic charcoal particles (>100 um) were counted at high resolution in the sediments to observe the co-variation of the local fire history and mercury fluxes. Mercury flux recorded in ombrotrophic peat cores provided an estimate of the historical atmospheric mercury flux from local and regional atmospheric deposition. The mercury flux recorded in lake sediments corresponds to the sum of direct atmospheric deposition and catchment transport. In combination, these archives will allow for the partitioning of mercury loading attributable to catchment transport from direct atmospheric deposition. After correcting the fluxes for particle focusing and terragenic elements input, flux from different lakes will be compared based on their catchment size and their temporal and spatial proximity known fire events. Altogether, our preliminary results using these paleolimnological methods will provide new insights on mercury transport processes that are predicted to become more important under a changing climate.

Regime Shifts in Shallow Lakes: Responses of Cyanobacterial Blooms to Watershed Agricultural Phosphorus Loading Over the Last~ 100 Years. [See full document]

Publication Year:

2015

Authors:

Jesse Clark Vermaire, 

Zofia Ecaterina Taranu,

Graham K MacDonald,

Katherine Velghe,

Elena Bennett, & 

Irene Gregory-Eaves

Rapid changes in ecosystem states have occurred naturally throughout Earth's history. However, environmental changes that have taken place since the start of the Anthropocene may be destabilizing ecosystems and increasing the frequency of regime shifts in response to abrupt changes in external drivers or local intrinsic dynamics. To evaluate the relative influence of these forcers and improve our understanding of the impact of future change, we examined the effects of historical catchment phosphorus loading associated with agricultural land use on lake ecosystems, and whether this caused a shift from a stable, clear-water, regime to a turbid, cyanobacteria-dominated, state. The sedimentary pigments, diatom, and zooplankton (Cladocera) records from a currently clear-water shallow lake (Roxton Pond) and a turbid-water shallow lake (Petit lac Saint-François; PSF) were examined to determine if a cyanobacteria associated pigment (i.e. echinenone) showed an abrupt non-linear response to continued historical phosphorus load index (determined by phosphorus budget) over the last ~100 years. While PSF lake is presently in the turbid-water state, pigment and diatom analyses indicated that both lakes were once in the clear-water state, and that non-linear increases in catchment phosphorus balance resulted in an abrupt transition to cyanobacteria dominated states in each record. These results show that phosphorus loading has resulted in state shifts in shallow lake ecosystems that has been recorded across multiple paleolimnological indicators preserved in the sedimentary record.

An Interdisciplinary Journal [See full document]

Publication Year:

2013

Authors:

John M Murrin,

Elaine Forman Crane,

William Pencak,

John Wood Sweet, & 

Jenna Silvers

None of the contents of this journal may be reproduced without prior written consent of the University of Pennsylvania Press. Authorization to photocopy is granted by the University of Pennsylvania Press for individuals and for libraries or other users registered with the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) Transaction Reporting Service, provided that all required fees are verified with the CCC and payments are remitted directly to the CCC, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923. This consent does not extend to other kinds of copying for general distribution, for advertising or promotional purposes, for creating new collective works, for database retrieval, or for resale.

Reconstructing storm surges and the resultant ecosystem impacts and recoveries in the western Canadian Arctic over the last ∼1000 years [See full document]

Publication Year:

2012

Authors:

Jesse Vermaire

An increase in storm frequency and strength is a predicted consequence of climate warming in Arctic regions. These larger, more frequent storms are expected to impact coastal environments, possibly resulting in abrupt and irreversible shifts in ecosystems. Understanding the frequency and magnitude of past storm surges and the resultant impacts on coastal environments, would assist in the management of Arctic ecosystems and inform adaptation planning in a changing climate. The objectives of this study are: A) to reconstruct the frequency and magnitude of past storm surges over the last ∼1000 years in the Mackenzie Delta region of the Northwest Territories, Canada; and B) to determine the impact and recovery response to past storm surges on a central component of freshwater food-webs, the Chironomidae. Particle size analysis indicates that storm surges have been a frequent occurrence in the Mackenzie Delta region over the last ∼1000 years. However, recent storm surges have resulted in the deposition of larger particles, suggesting stronger storms are becoming more common. Preliminary results indicate that larger storm surges resulted in a decline in both the abundance and diversity of subfossil Chironomidae remains, while many of the historical storm surges had little impact on the Chironomidae. Further analysis of these results will allow for a greater understanding of the recovery rate and trajectory of Chironomidae communities following storm surges, and allow us to draw conclusions on how freshwater Arctic ecosystems may respond to the predicted future increase in the strength and frequency of storm surges.

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies & Institute of Environmental Science.

Carleton University 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 5B6.

Direct Contact: Jesse Vermaire | Tel: 613-520-2600 ext 3898 | Email: jesse.vermaire@carleton.ca

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