Paleoenvironmental context for the Late Pleistocene appearance of Didymosphenia in a North American alpine lake

TitlePaleoenvironmental context for the Late Pleistocene appearance of Didymosphenia in a North American alpine lake
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSpaulding, SA, Stone, JR, Norton, SA, Nurse, A, Saros, JE
JournalAquatic Sciences
Date PublishedJan-01-2020

The nuisance species Didymosphenia geminata is thought to have been spread by humans across North and South America and New Zealand. This diatom is of interest for its ability to form thick benthic mats in streams, altering ecosystem properties. Little is known, however, about its historic distribution and the parameters that are associated with its growth in absence of human influence. Although it is considered to be native to Arctic regions, its status at lower latitudes is uncertain. We measured the concentration of D. geminata cells in a sediment core from Beauty Lake, WY, a record that dates back to the Late Pleistocene. From approximately 11,233–8750 years before present (ybp), a Didymosphenia maximum persisted, with peak concentrations of 3774±20 valves/mg dry sediment (9985 ybp). The period corresponded to low flux of Al, Fe, and P within the sediments, supporting the importance of low P in controlling distribution. Furthermore, we demonstrate that D. geminata arrived in Beauty Lake shortly after deglaciation of the watershed. This species arrived without the aid of human introduction, implying an inherent ability for dispersal. We also examined the sediment record of nearby Yellowstone Lake, WY for the presence of D. geminata during the same time interval, but cells were not detected. The Yellowstone caldera is composed of rhyolite, a rock rich in silica (Si) and modest amounts of P. We conclude that both watersheds were exposed to the potential colonization by D. geminata, but just as the North Island of New Zealand has not been able to support this diatom because of P concentrations exceeding a threshold, the Yellowstone watershed is not able to support it either.