Using Diatoms (Class Bacillariophyceae) as a biological proxy for environmental changes in the Canterbury high country, Lake Hawdon, New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
This study examined samples part of a larger project exploring environmental changes at Lake Hawdon, mid Canterbury, involving Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Canterbury. The author was responsible for the analysis of 85 fossil diatom samples from Lake Hawdon to create a high resolution study to assess their use as a biological proxy of past environmental changes through the Late Glacial Inter-Glacial Transition. Qualitative interpretations suggest three main phases of environmental change in Lake Hawdon during ~17,000 to 10,000 cal. BP. The first is a cool stage where taxa such as Cocconeis placentula and fragilarioid complex taxa Staurosirella pinnata and Pseudostaurosira brevistriata suggest a cool shallow lake with increasing macrophyte growth. The second phase suggests cold deepening water from at 13,928 +/- 142 to 12,686 +/- 166 cal. BP, dominated by Pseudostaurosira brevistriata, which coincides with the Antarctic Cold Reversal. The third phase represents a warm deep water phase after 12,686 +/- 166 cal. BP, dominated by planktonic taxon Cyclotella stelligera and epiphytic taxon Epithemia sorex, suggesting that Lake Hawdon does not exhibit the Younger Dryas event. Pollen and chironomid data from Lake Hawdon, generated by other project members, are included in the quantitative analyses to further inform palaeoenvironmental inferences generated from diatom data. Chironomid temperature reconstructions complement diatom interpretations for all three phases of change in the lake however diatom resolution allows changes to be detected earlier than other proxies suggest. Stabilisation of the landscape ~12, 686 +/- 166 cal. BP is suggested by tree pollen appearing near the end of the diatom cold phase, confirming with the diatoms and chironomid data that there was a warming out of the cold phase. Interpretations from Lake Hawdon add to other proxy studies in New Zealand that suggest an Antarctic Cold Reversal type event, but fail to highlight the Younger Dryas event. The generation of a transfer function was attempted with the diatom data based on Northern Hemisphere datasets, but a Principal Component Analysis plot highlighted major dissimilarities between the New Zealand fossil data and modern European data. This raised the issue of having morphologically similar but genetically separate taxa, potentially displaying convergent environmental adaptation, a crucial area for further research globally, and particularly in isolated areas like New Zealand.