Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Soil Geochemistry and Normative Mineralogy across Canada
Soils play a crucial role in ecosystem functioning, for example, soil minerals provide important provisioning and regulate ecosystem services. This study used major soil oxides from the North American Soil Geochemical Landscapes Project (n=560) to assess elemental associations and infer soil minerals through exploratory data analysis and to determined quantitative soil mineralogy using a normative method, Analysis to Mineralogy (n=1170). Results showed elemental variability of oxides across the provinces of Canada and strong correlations occurred between elements indicative of soil mineral composition (e.g., Silicon and Aluminium). Principal component analysis inferred soil minerals from soil oxides trends on biplots and classified minerals, generally, as carbonates, silicates, and weathered secondary oxides. Spatial variability in minerals (quartz, plagioclase, potassium feldspar, chlorite, and muscovite) was related to the underlying bedrock geology. The use of Analysis to Mineralogy led to a reliable method of quantifying soil minerals at a large scale. Author Keywords: Analysis to Mineralogy, Exploratory data analysis, Normative procedures, North American Soil Geochemical Landscapes Project, Soil geochemistry, Soil mineralogy
Effects of Invasive Wetland Macrophytes on Habitat Selection by Turtles
Invasive species that alter habitats can have significant impacts on wildlife. The invasive graminoids Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud, hereafter Phragmites, and Typha × glauca Godr. are rapidly spreading into North American wetlands, replacing native vegetation. Invasive Phragmites is considered a potential threat to several species-at-risk (SAR), including some turtle species. My study wetland contained large stands of Phragmites, as well as Typha spp. (including invasive T. × glauca) that have similar structural traits to Phragmites. To explore the hypothesis that Phragmites and Typha spp. do not provide suitable habitat for turtles, I tested the prediction that turtles avoid Phragmites- and Typha-dominated habitats. I used VHF-GPS transmitters to follow Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii, n = 14) and spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata, n = 12). I found that both turtle species did not avoid Phragmites- or Typha-dominated habitats when choosing a home range, or while moving within their home range. I also tested whether the microhabitat selection of Blanding’s turtles and spotted turtles is affected by shoot density of Phragmites, Typha spp., or both. I compared shoot densities of Phragmites and Typha spp. in 4 m2 plots, from locations used by tracked turtles with paired, random locations in these turtles’ home ranges. For both turtle species, the densities of Phragmites and Typha shoots were comparable between used and random locations within the home ranges (generalized linear mixed model; p > 0.05). The use of Phragmites- and Typha-dominated habitats by Blanding’s turtles and spotted turtles suggests that these habitats do not automatically constitute “unsuitable habitats” for turtles. Phragmites and Typha spp. (especially T. × glauca) can replace preferred habitats of some turtle species, and the control of these invasive macrophytes can help to preserve habitat heterogeneity. However, the presence of SAR turtles in Phragmites and Typha spp. stands should inform risk-assessments for invasive plant species control methods that include mechanical rolling of stands, where heavy machinery might encounter turtles. Author Keywords: Blanding’s turtles, compositional analysis, habitat selection, Phragmites australis, spotted turtles, Typha x glauca
Phosphorus forms and response to changes in pH in acid-sensitive soils on the Precambrian Shield
Catchment soil acidification has been suggested as a possible mechanism for reducing phosphorus (P) loading to surface waters in North America and northern Europe, but much of the research that has been conducted regarding P immobilization in pH manipulated soils has been performed at high P concentrations (> 130 μM). This study investigated how soil acidity was related to P fractionation and P sorption at environmentally relevant P concentrations to evaluate the potential influence of long term changes in soil pH on P release to surface waters. Total phosphorus (TP) concentrations declined between 1980 and 2000 in many lakes and streams in central Ontario; over the same time period forest soils in this region became more acidic. Soils were collected from 18 soil pits at three forested catchments with similar bedrock geology but varying TP export loads. The soil pH at the 18 study soil pits spanned the historic soil pH range, allowing for `space for time' comparison of soil P factions. Soils were analysed by horizon for P fractions via Hedley P fractionation. Batch P sorption experiments were performed on selected B-horizon soils at varied solution pH. Soil P fractions varied by horizon but were comparable among the three catchments, with only apatite (PHCl) differing significantly across catchments. Contrary to expectation, both soluble and labile P showed negative relationships with pH in some horizons. Mineral soils were able to sorb almost all (> 90 %) of the P in solution at environmentally relevant P concentrations (4.5 - 45.2 μM). Phosphorus sorption at environmentally relevant P concentrations was unrelated to solution pH but at high P concentration there was a positive relationship between P sorption and solution pH, suggesting a P concentration dependant P sorption mechanism. Phosphorus budgets indicate that P is accumulating within catchments, suggesting that P is being immobilized in the terrestrial environment. An alternative hypothesis, which attempts to explain both the decline in stream TP export and terrestrial P accumulation, is discussed. The results from this study suggest that acidification induced P sorption in upland soils are not a contributing factor to decreases in stream TP concentration in the study catchments. Author Keywords: central Ontario, Hedley fractionation, phosphorus, podzols, soil acidification, sorption
effects of environmental variables and dissolved organic matter characteristics on the diffusion coefficient of dissolved organic matter using diffusive gradients in thin films
The efficacy of the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) passive samplers to provide accurate measurements of free metal ions and those complexed with dissolved organic matter (DOM) was investigated. DOM controls the diffusive properties of DOM-complexed metal species in natural systems. Knowing the diffusion coeiffiecent (D) for DOM of different molecular weights (MW) and the major environmental variables influencing D is critical in developing the use of DGT passive samplers and understanding labile species. D and MW were determined for natural and standard DOM. No noticeable changes in DOM MW were observed during the diffusion process, suggesting that DOM remains intact following diffusion across the diffusive gel. Data analysis revealed that MW had the greatest influence on D, with a negative relationship between D and MW, except in tidal areas where ionic strength influence on D was significant. This study provides further characterization of the variables influencing D using the DGT technique. Author Keywords: Diffusion coefficient, Diffusive gradients in thin films, Dissolved organic matter, Flow field-flow fractionation, Principal Component Analysis, UV-Vis Spectroscopy
Effects of biodiversity and lake environment on the decomposition rates of aquatic macrophytes in the Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
Decomposition of aquatic macrophytes has an important role in defining lake carbon (C) storage and nutrient dynamics. To test how diversity impacts decomposition dynamics and site-quality effects, I first examined whether the decomposition rate of aquatic macrophytes varies with species richness. Generally, I found neutral effects of mixing, with initial stoichiometry of component species driving decomposition rates. Additionally, external lake conditions can also influence decomposition dynamics. Therefore, I assessed how the decomposition rate of a submersed macrophyte varies across a nutrient gradient in nine lakes. I found decomposition rates varied among lakes. Across all lakes, I found Myriophyllum decomposition rates and changes in stoichiometry to be related to both nutrients and water chemistry. During the incubation changes in detrital stoichiometry were related to lake P and decomposition rates. Aquatic plant community composition and stoichiometry could alter decomposition dynamics in moderately nutrient enriched lakes. Author Keywords: Aquatic Plants, Decomposition, Diversity, Littoral, Macrophytes, Nutrients
Factors Controlling Peat Chemistry and Vegetation Composition in Sudbury Peatlands after 30 Years of Emission Reductions
Peatlands are prevalent in the Sudbury, Ontario region. Compared with the well documented devastation to the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in this region, relatively little work has been conducted on the peatlands. The objective of this research was to assess factors controlling peat and plant chemistry, and vegetation composition in 18 peatlands in Sudbury after over 30 years of emission reductions. Peatland chemistry and the degree of humification varies considerably, but sites closer to the main smelter had more humified peat and the surface horizons were enriched in copper (Cu) and nickel (Ni). Copper and Ni concentrations in peat were significantly correlated with Cu and Ni in the plant tissue of leatherleaf, although the increased foliar metal content did not obviously impact secondary chemistry stress indicators. The pH and mineral content of peat were the strongest determining factors for species richness, diversity and community composition. The bryophyte communities appear to be acid and metal tolerant, although Sphagnum mosses are showing limited recovery. Author Keywords: anthropogenic emissions, bryophytes, community comspoition, heavy metals, peatlands, wetland vegetation
Investigating the sources and fate of monomethylmercury and dimethylmercury in the Arctic marine boundary layer and waters
Monomethylmercury (MMHg), the most bioavailable form of mercury (Hg) and a potent neurotoxin, is present at elevated concentrations in Arctic marine mammals posing serious health threats to the local populations relying on marine food for their subsistence living. The sources of MMHg in the Arctic Ocean surface water and the role of dimethylmercury (DMHg) as a source of MMHg remain unclear. The objective of this research was to determine the sources and fate of methylated Hg species (MMHg and DMHg) in the marine ecosystem by investigating processes controlling the presence of methylated Hg species in the Arctic Ocean marine boundary layer (MBL) and surface waters. A method based on solid phase adsorption on Bond Elut ENV was developed and successfully used for unprecedented measurement of methylated Hg species in the MBL in Hudson Bay (HB) and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). MMHg and DMHg concentrations averaged 2.9 ± 3.6 (mean ± SD) and 3.8 ± 3.1 pg m-3, respectively, and varied significantly among sampling sites. MMHg in the MBL is suspected to be the product of marine DMHg degradation in the atmosphere. MMHg summer (June to September) atmospheric wet deposition rates were estimated to be 188 ± 117.5 ng m-2 and 37 ± 21.7 ng m-2 for HB and CAA, respectively, sustaining MMHg concentrations available for bio-magnification in the pelagic food web. The production and loss of methylated Hg species in surface waters was assessed using enriched stable isotope tracers. MMHg production in surface water was observed from methylation of inorganic Hg (Hg(II)) and, for the first time, from DMHg demethylation with experimentally derived rate constants of 0.92 ± 0.82 x 10-3 d-1 and 0.04 ± 0.02 d-1 respectively. DMHg demethyation rate constant (0.98 ± 0.51 d-1) was higher than that of MMHg (0.35 ± 0.25 d-1). Furthermore, relationships with environmental parameters suggest that methylated Hg species transformations in surface water are mainly biologically driven. We propose that in addition to Hg(II) methylation, the main processes controlling MMHg production in the Arctic Ocean surface waters are DMHg demethylation and deposition of atmospheric MMHg. These results are valuable for a better understanding of the cycle of methylated Hg in the Arctic marine environment. Author Keywords: Arctic Ocean, Atmosphere, Demethylation, Dimethylmercury, Methylation, Monomethylmercury
Aeolian Impact Ripples in Sand Beds of Varied Texture
A wind tunnel study was conducted to investigate aeolian impact ripples in sand beds of varied texture from coarsely skewed to bimodal. Experimental data is lacking for aeolian megaripples, particularly in considering the influence of wind speed on ripple morphometrics. Additionally, the modelling community requires experimental data for model validation and calibration. Eighteen combinations of wind speed and proportion of coarse mode particles by mass were analysed for both morphometrics and optical indices of spatial segregation. Wind tunnel conditions emulated those found at aeolian megaripple field sites, specifically a unimodal wind regime and particle transport mode segregation. Remote sensing style image classification was applied to investigate the spatial segregation of the two differently coloured size populations. Ripple morphometrics show strong dependency on wind speed. Conversely, morphometric indices are inversely correlated to the proportion of the distribution that was comprised of coarse mode particles. Spatial segregation is highly correlated to wind speed in a positive manner and negatively correlated to the proportion of the distribution that was comprised of coarse mode particles. Results reveal that the degree of spatial segregation within an impact ripple bedform can be higher than previously reported in the literature. Author Keywords: Aeolian, Impact Ripples, Megaripple, Self-organization, Wind Tunnel
Observation-based assessment of atmospheric sulphur surrounding a major aluminum smelter in British Columbia, Canada
Recent developments at an aluminum (Al) smelter in Kitimat, BC resulted in a permitted increase of 27 to 42 tonnes of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions per day. Gaseous SO2 is a pollutant known to contribute to acidic deposition through processes of wet and dry deposition and can additionally react in-atmosphere to form particulate sulphate (pSO42-). Between June 2017 to October 2018, an extensive network consisting of ion exchange resin (IER) column, passive-diffusive, and active filter-pack samplers was established to provide an estimate of total annual S deposition and pSO42- variation throughout the Kitimat Valley. Filter-pack sampling determined the relative concentration of pSO42- increased downwind of the smelter. Comparison of observation-based and modelled total annual deposition suggested CALPUFF was accurate in representing the spatial viability of S deposition (R2 = > 0.85). However, the model appeared to overpredict near-field deposition suggesting the potential of underestimation further downwind of the smelter. Author Keywords: aluminum smelter, atmospheric deposition, filter-pack sampler, ion-exchange column sampler, pSO42-, SO2
Effect Assessment of Binary Metal Mixtures of Ni, Cu, Zn, and Cd to Daphnia magna
Mixtures of metals occur in surface waters, toxicity of which has drawn world-wide attention due to their crucial role in both ecotoxicology and regulations. The present research was undertaken to study the acute toxicity of binary mixtures of Ni, Cu, Zn, and Cd to the freshwater organism, Daphnia magna. The experimental approach included single and binary metal toxicity tests based on the 48h acute toxicity bioassay of Environment Canada. The acute toxicity of single metals followed the order of Cd > Cu > Zn > Ni. Based on the calculated 48h EC50 value of single metals, a toxic unit (TU) approach was used to combine two metals in a binary mixture, in which 1TU was equal to the 48h EC50 value of a metal in single exposure. The toxicity of binary metal mixtures to D. magna followed the order of Cu-Cd > Cu-Zn > Zn-Cd > Cu-Ni > Zn-Ni > Cd-Ni, which demonstrated three types of toxicity (i.e., less than additive, additive, and greater additive). Predictions from additivity models (including concentration addition (CA) and independent action (IA) models), a generalized linear model (GLM), and a biotic-ligand-like model (BLM-like) were compared to the bioassay results. The CA and the RA models also predicted three types of toxicity of the binary metal mixtures (i.e., less than additive, additive, and greater than additive). However, the CA model mostly overestimated the toxicity of binary mixtures. Predictions from the GLM supported the inclusion of the interaction between two metals in a mixture to predict the toxicity of binary metal mixtures. The binary metal toxicity was also predicted using a BLM-like model based on the calculated concentrations of free ionic forms of the metals, affinity constants, and toxic potency of each metal. In this model, it was hypothesized that the toxicity of metal mixture is the result of competition of metals with Ca2+ at biotic ligands, which can lead to whole-body deficiency of Ca2+ in D. magna. The BLM-like model provided the toxic potency of single metals with the following order, Cu > Cd > Zn > Ni. Although the prediction of the BLM-like model was not in good agreement with the observed toxicity of binary metal mixtures, an overestimation of risk of mixture toxicity was obtained using this model, which could be promising for use in environmental risk assessment. Author Keywords: biotic ligand model, concentration addition, Daphnia magna, independent action, metal toxicity, modeling
Discontinuities in stream networks
The network composition hypothesis (NCH) suggests that i) large confluence symmetry ratios (drainage area of the tributary relative to the mainstem) and ii) landscape differences (differences in landscape characteristics between the mainstem and tributary drainages) lead to greater ecological changes below confluences. As a test of the NCH, 34 confluences were sampled in southern Ontario to examine the effects of these two factors on benthic invertebrate communities to infer the degree of ecological change at confluences. Given the typology of streams surveyed, there was subtle evidence that benthic invertebrate communities below confluences changed as a function of confluence symmetry ratio and landscape differences. This indicates that abrupt changes in stream networks are not as common as theory may suggest. Further support for the network composition hypothesis may be found by examining a wider range of stream types and examining single-species responses. Author Keywords: benthic invertebrates, community similarity, landscape characteristics, stream networks, tributary
Dynamics and Mechanisms of Community Assembly in a Mined Carolinian Peatland
Theoretical work on community recovery, development, stability, and resistance to species invasions has outpaced experimental field research. There is also a need for better integration between ecological theory and the practice of ecological restoration. This thesis investigates the dynamics of community assembly following peat mining and subsequent restoration efforts at Canada's most southerly raised bog. It examines mechanisms underlying plant community changes and tests predictions arising from the Dynamic Environmental Filter Model (DEFM) and the Fluctuating Resource Hypothesis (FRH). Abiotic, biotic and dispersal filters were modified to test a conceptual model of assembly for Wainfleet Bog. Hydrology was manipulated at the plot scale across multiple nutrient gradients, and at the whole bog scale using peat dams. Trends in time series of hydrological variables were related to restoration actions and uncontrolled variables including precipitation, evapotranspiration and arrival of beaver. Impacts of a changing hydrology on the developing plant community were compared with those from cutting the invasive Betula pendula. Transplanting experiments were used to examine species interactions within primary and secondary successional communities. Seedlings of B. pendula and the native Betula papyrifera were planted together across a peat volumetric water content (VWC) gradient. Impacts of beaver dams were greater than those of peat dams and their relative importance was greatest during periods of drought. Cutting of B.pendula had little effect on the secondary successional plant community developing parallel to blocked drains. Phosphorus was the main limiting nutrient with optimum levels varying substantially between species. Primary colonisers formed a highly stable, novel plant community. Stability was due to direct and indirect facilitative interactions between all species. Reduction in frost heaving was the major mechanism behind this facilitation. Interactions within the secondary successional community were mostly competitive, driven by light and space availability. However, restricted dispersal rather than competition limited further species recruitment. Predictions based on the DEFM were partially correct. A splitting of this model's biotic filter into competition and facilitation components is proposed. There was little support for the FRH based on nutrient levels and VWC. B. pendula had higher germination and growth rates, tolerance to a wider range of peat VWCs and a greater resistance to deer browsing than native birch. Peat mining, combined with restoration actions and the arrival of beaver has moved much of the bog back to an earlier successional stage circa 350+ years BP. Evidence points to B. pendula being a "back-seat driver" in the ecosystem recovery process. Indirect facilitation of a native by an exotic congener, mediated through herbivory, has not been described previously. Shifts in relative contributions of facilitation, competition and dispersal limitations to community assembly may be useful process-oriented measures for gauging progress in restoration. Author Keywords: Betula pendula, community assembly, competition, facilitation, peatland, restoration


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