The sensitivity of diatom taxa from Yakutian lakes (north-eastern Siberia) to electrical conductivity and other environmental variables

  • Luidmila A. Pestryakova Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University, Institute of Natural Sciences
  • Ulrike Herzschuh Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research
  • Ruslan Gorodnichev Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University, Institute of Natural Sciences
  • Sebastian Wetterich Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research
Keywords: Temperature, pH, dissolved silica concentration, Arctic, diatom indicator species


Relative abundances of 157 diatom taxa from Yakutian lake surface-sediments were investigated for their potential to indicate certain environmental conditions. Data from 206 sites from Arctic, sub-Arctic and boreal environments were included. Redundancy analyses were performed to assess the explanatory power of mean July temperature (T July ), conductivity, pH, dissolved silica concentration, phosphate concentration, lake depth and vegetation type on diatom species composition. Boosted regression tree analyses were performed to infer the most relevant environmental variables for abundances of individual taxa and weighted average regression was applied to infer their respective optimum and tolerance. Electrical conductivity was best indicated by diatom taxa. In contrast, only few taxa were indicative of Si and water depth. Few taxa were related to specific pH values. Although T July explained the highest proportion of variance in the diatom spectra and was, after conductivity, the second-most selected splitting variable, we a priori decided not to present indicator taxa because of the poorly understood relationship between diatom occurrences and T July . In total, 92 diatom taxa were reliable indicators of a certain vegetation type or a combination of several types. The high numbers of indicative species for open vegetation sites and for forested sites suggest that the principal turnover is the transition from forest–tundra to northern taiga. Overall, our results reveal that preference ranges of diatom taxa for environmental variables are mostly broad, and the use of indicator taxa for the purposes of environmental reconstruction or environmental monitoring is therefore restricted to marked rather than subtle environmental transitions.


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