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Chapter

16 Paleoecology

Learning Objec7ves
A"er studying this chapter you should be able to
1. Dene paleoecology and describe its major strengths and assump7ons. 2. Describe the eld of dendrochronology and summarize how these approaches can be used by ecologists. 3. Outline the basic principles used in sedimentary analyses and describe the major indicators used by paleoecologists. 4. Outline the cri7cal roles that paleoecologists have played in some of the most pressing environmental debates faced by society, such as lake acidica7on and clima7c change.

Paleoecology
Deals with popula7ons, communi7es, and ecosystems in the past. Fossils. Examines hypotheses in historical context. Learn for the future. Tree rings, sediments, ice cores.

Tree ring analysis helps us to understand growth condi7ons in the past.


Dendrochronology
Tree ring analysis. Tree growth shows seasonal varia7on, resul7ng in annual rings. Earlywood and latewood form 1 year of growth. Ring width inuenced by temperature, drought, pests. Coring (sanded, image analysis soOware)
Fig. 16.2, p. 522

Interpreta7on of Tree Rings


Ring width in a given year reects growth condi7ons in that year. Narrow rings may reect a dry or a cold year. AOer major volcano erup7ons, narrow tree rings are oOen produced globally.

Cross-sec7on of white spruce (Picea glauca) in Inuvik, Mackenzie delta. Rings 1745-1883 shown in detail.

Salmon

Floods and Fires


Quercus macrocarpa > > > > Pinus ponderosa

The shrunken earlywood vessels (arrow) in this Manitoba-grown bur oak were formed in 1862, a ood year in Red River Valley.

Series of re scars on a Ponderosa pine grown in New Mexico.

p. 525

Sediments
Sediments accumulate in lakes, rivers, oceans, and peat bogs. Algae, animal remains, pollen grains.
The paleolimnological record in the sediment is composed of allochthonous and autochthonous materials.

Fig. 16.3, p. 526

Palynology
Pollen resistant to decomposi7on. Large quan77es of pollen in wind- pollinated species. Presence of pollen grains an indicator of vegeta7on.

Fossil pollen grains of Ambrosia (A; ragweed) and Pinus (B; pine) found in an Ontario lake.

Fig. 16.5, p. 529

Pollen Diagrams

Fig. 16.5, p. 529

Environmental Op7ma and Tolerances


Each species has its op7mal condi7ons. Presence of a species gives indica7on about environmental condi7ons. Species composi7on in sediments tells us about past condi7ons. Common indicators: diatoms, midge larvae, Cladocera.

Fig. 16.4, p. 527

Diatoms
There are thousands of diatom species, each with their op7mum temperature, pH and nutrient requirements. Silicone cell walls preserve well. Diatom cell walls in lake sediments tell us about past condi7ons in that lake.

Fossil diatoms from a lake sediment.


Lake Acidica7on
Air pollu7on (SO2) can lead to lake acidica7on. Lakes can also be naturally acidic. Natural or anthropogenic? No data
<decrease d pollution <pollution

Fig. 16.6, p. 533

Presence of Fish
Some midge species, such as Chaoborus americanus, cannot co- exist with sh.


Presence of three Chaoborus species in Swan Lake, Sudbury. ON.

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