Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Factors affecting road mortality of reptiles and amphibians on the Bruce Peninsula
Road mortality is one of the leading causes of global population declines in reptiles and amphibians. Stemming losses from reptile and amphibian road mortality is a conservation priority and mitigation is a key recovery measure. I developed a model of road mortalities relative to non-­‐mortalities, based on predictors varying across space (road surface type, traffic volume, speed limit, distance to wetland) and time (weather conditions, traffic volume). Herpetofauna road mortalities were recorded during daily bicycle and vehicle surveys to investigate the impact of roads on reptiles and amphibians within the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario in 2012 and 2013. A total of 2541 observations of herpetofauna on roads were recorded, 79% of which were dead. The major factor influencing turtle road mortality was proximity to the nearest wetland and dates early in the season (spring). For the Massasauga, high daily temperatures and low daily precipitation were associated with road mortality. The major factors driving colubrid snake mortality were also high daily temperature, low daily precipitation, as well as low speeds and paved roads. Frog and toad mortality was driven by proximity to wetland and late summer dates. These models will increase our understanding of factors affecting road losses of herpetofauna and serve as a basis for planned, experimental mitigation within the Bruce Peninsula. Author Keywords: amphibians, hotspot, mitigation, reptiles, road ecology, road mortality
Regional Assessment of Soil Calcium Weathering Rates and the Factors that Influence Lake Calcium in the Muskoka River Catchment, Central Ontario
(MRC) in central Ontario was carried out to determine the range and spatial distribution of soil Ca weathering rates, and investigate the relationships between lake Ca and soil and catchment attributes. The MRC is acid-sensitive, and has a long history of impacts from industrial emission sources in Ontario and the United States. Small headwater catchments were sampled for soil and landscape attributes (e.g. elevation, slope, catchment area) at 84 sites. Soil Ca weathering rates, estimated with the PROFILE model, were low throughout the region (average: 188 eq/(ha·yr)) compared to global averages, and lower than Ca deposition (average: 292 eq/(ha·yr)). Multiple linear regression models of lake Ca (n= 306) were dominated by landscape variables such as elevation, which suggests that on a regional scale, landscape variables are better predictors of lake Ca than catchment soil variables. Author Keywords: Calcium, Lakes, Regional assessment, Regression, Soils, Weathering
Enhanced weathering and carbonation of kimberlite residues from South African diamond mines
Mafic and ultramafic mine wastes have the potential to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through enhanced weathering and CO2 mineralization. In this study, kimberlite residues from South African diamond mines were investigated to understand how weathering of these wastes leads to the formation of secondary carbonate minerals, a stable sink for CO2. Residues from Venetia Diamond Mine were fine-grained with high surface areas, and contained major abundances of lizardite, diopside, and clinochlore providing a maximum CO2 sequestration capacity of 3–6% of the mines emissions. Experiments utilized flux chambers to measure CO2 drawdown within residues and unweathered kimberlite exhibited greater negative fluxes (-790 g CO2/m2/year) compared to residues previously exposed to process waters (-190 g CO2/m2/year). Long-term weathering of kimberlite residues was explored using automated wet-dry cycles (4/day) over one year. Increases in the δ13C and δ18O values of carbonate minerals and unchanged amount of inorganic carbon indicate CO2 cycling as opposed to a net increase in carbon. Kimberlite collected at Voorspoed Diamond Mine contained twice as much carbonate in yellow ground (weathered) compared to blue ground, demonstrating the ability of kimberlite to store CO2 through prolonged weathering. This research is contributing towards the utilization of kimberlite residues and waste rock for CO2 sequestration. Author Keywords: CO2 fluxes, CO2 mineralization, CO2 sequestration, Enhanced weathering, Kimberlite, Passive carbonation
Understanding the establishment of Typha spp. in North America using population genetics and common garden studies
There are three cattail (Typha) taxa in Canada: T. latifolia (native), T. angustifolia (introduced), and their hybrid T. x glauca. The latter is invasive in regions around the Laurentian Great Lakes, and I investigated the potential role that commercial suppliers may be playing in the introduction of non-native Typha by comparing genotypes of North American, European, and commercially available plants. I found that Ontario garden centres are importing both hybrids and non-native lineages of T. angustifolia into Canada, but was unable to identify the provenance of T. latifolia. I also investigated the possibility that the hybrid cattail leaf litter shade and leachate influences germination and early growth of the parental species of the hybrids. Using three common garden experiments, I found that T. x glauca leaf litter suppresses germination rates of the three taxa. In the early seedling growth experiment, plant performance varied by taxa, and for the competition experiment there were no intra- or interspecific competition or treatment effects on the performance of plants. Overall, my research identified a potential mechanism allowing T. x glauca to dominate wetlands, and also shows that non-native lineages are being introduced into Canada through commercial trade Author Keywords: Competition, Germination, Non-native lineages, Plant nurseries, Seedling Growth, Typha spp.
impact of selection harvesting on soil properties and understory vegetation in canopy gaps and skid roads in central Ontario
Tree harvesting alters nutrient cycling and removes nutrients held in biomass, and as a result nutrient availability may be reduced, particularly in naturally oligotrophic ecosystems. Selection harvesting is a silvicultural technique limited to tolerant hardwood forests where individual or small groups of trees are removed creating a “gap” in the forest canopy. In order for harvesting machinery to gain access to these individual trees, trees are felled to create pathways, known as skid roads. The objective of this study was to characterize differences in soil chemical and physical properties in gaps, skid roads and uncut areas following selection harvesting in central Ontario as well as documenting differences in the understory vegetation community and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) seedlings chemical composition post harvest. First year seedlings were collected for elemental analysis from unharvested areas, canopy gaps, and skid roads in 2014, eight months after harvesting. In 2015, first and second year sugar maple seedlings were collected. Soil bulk density and water infiltration were measured in the three areas of the catchment as well as soil moisture, organic matter content, exchangeable base cations, and net nitrification. Seedlings in the disturbed sites had lower concentrations of Mg, K, P, and N compared with unharvested sites and soil nitrification was significantly lower in the skid roads. Water infiltration rates in the gap and skid roads were slower than the control and concentrations of metals (e.g. Fe, Al, Ca) and litter mass increased in litter bags deployed over 335 days, likely reflecting an increase in soil erosion in the skid roads. Understory vegetation was markedly different amongst sites, particularly the dominance of Carex spp. in the skid roads. The sustainability of industrial logging is dependent on successful tree regeneration, however, increased soil compaction, establishment and growth of grasses and shrubs, as well as low nutrient concentrations in seedlings may ultimately restrict forest succession. Author Keywords: Canadian Shield, nitrification, selection harvesting, soil compaction, sugar maple seedling, understory vegetation
Influence of Nitrogen Deposition on Community Composition in Pinus banksiana Forests Across Northwestern Canada
Anthropogenic atmospheric emissions and subsequent deposition of nitrogen (N) can affect N-sensitive habitats and lead to shifts in plant species community composition. This study assessed the effects of N deposition on plant community composition for Jack pine forests across northwestern Canada and across a smaller subset of sites surrounding the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) using ‘gradient forest’ analysis. Predictor influence on community composition varied depending on the scale of the study and relatively distinct thresholds were identified for different plant groups. In the larger scale study, a total deposited nitrogen (TDN) threshold of 1.5 – 3 kg N ha-1yr-1 was well suited to protect predominantly lichen species, consistent with lichen-based critical loads from other studies. Across the smaller scale study, a TDN threshold of 5.6 kg N ha-1yr-1 was primarily associated with vascular species changepoints but did include some important N-indicator lichen and bryophyte species. Author Keywords: critical loads, gradientForest, Jack pine, Nitrogen deposition, species composition
Responses of Primary Producers and Grazers to Silver Nanoparticle Exposure
The increasing production and use of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) raise concerns on environmental exposure and impact. A large scale in situ enclosure study was conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area to determine the effect of AgNPs on natural phytoplankton and zooplankton communities. This study investigated AgNPs of varying concentrations (4, 16 and 64 μg/L), dosing regimens (chronic vs. pulse), and capping agents (poly-vinyl pyrrolidone vs. citrate). Phytoplankton communities were influenced only by the natural limnological properties of the system signifying tolerance to AgNPs. Zooplankton community structure significantly changed with AgNP concentration and dosing regimen indicating AgNP sensitivity. A microcosm study investigating the effect of AgNPs and phosphorus-dosed periphyton before and after grazing by two benthic invertebrate species (snails and caddisfly larvae) showed reduced periphyton stoichiometry with AgNP exposure. Grazers foraged less on silver dosed periphyton indicating a preferential choice in food quality. Phosphorus reduced the detrimental effects of AgNPs across all conditions. These studies verify the need for in situ experimental designs to fully investigate the effects of AgNPs and their interaction with environmental factors, multiple species assemblages, and across trophic levels. Author Keywords: benthic invertebrate, Experimental Lakes Area, periphyton, phytoplankton, silver nanoparticles, zooplankton
Assessing Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) Seasonal Occupancy in Haliburton County, ON Using Environmental DNA
Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are declining across Ontario in both numbers and distribution, prompting concern for their future. Here, conventional, emerging, and predictive tools were combined to document brook trout occupation across seasons using streams in Haliburton County, ON as model systems. By using the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (OMNRFs) Aquatic Ecosystem Classification (AEC) system variables with environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling and backpack electrofishing, my research supports the development of species occupancy models (SOMs) and eDNA as tools to document brook trout occurrence. To do this, eDNA sampling was validated in Canadian Shield stream environments by comparison with single-pass backpack electrofishing before seasonally sampling two river systems across their main channel and tributaries to assess occupancy. Streams were classified as potential high, moderate, and low-quality brook trout habitats using indicator variables within the AEC and sampled seasonally with eDNA to quantify occupancy and relate it to habitat potential at the county scale. Results showed eDNA to be an effective tool for monitoring fish across Canadian Shield landscapes and that brook trout occupancy varied seasonally within and across watersheds, suggesting that habitat and fish management strategies need to consider seasonal movement and spatial connectivity. Using these tools will enable biologists to efficiently predict and document brook trout occurrences and habitat use across the landscape. Author Keywords: Aquatic Ecosystem Classification, brook trout, Canadian Shield, connectivity, environmental DNA, seasonal occupation
Anthropogenic particles and microplastics in headwater lake catchments in Muskoka-Haliburton, Canada
Microplastics, plastic particles less than 5 mm in diameter, are ubiquitous in the environment. This study estimated the abundance of microplastics (MP) in atmospheric deposition from four background monitoring stations in Muskoka-Haliburton, south-central Ontario, Canada and quantified the fate of microplastics to three background headwater lake catchments in Muskoka-Haliburton. Microplastics were observed across all sample media with polyethylene terephthalate and polyamide being predominant. The average atmospheric deposition of anthropogenic particles was 57 particles/m2/day with a plastic deposition rate of 7 MP/m2/day. Atmospheric deposition represented the highest daily microplastic flux rate to the three headwater lake catchments compared, 1.5 to 4 times greater than the flux rate for the inflow streams suggesting that atmospheric deposition can account for all the inflowing microplastics. A large fraction of the microplastics from atmospheric deposition (41 – 73%) were retained in the terrestrial catchment and there was a high retention of microplastics in each of the study lakes (1.44 – 7.39 million MP/day; 30 – 45%) suggesting that a large fraction of the terrestrial catchment export is retained by the lakes and that lakes are a reservoir for microplastics. Author Keywords: Atmospheric deposition, Microplastics, Ontario, Plastic pollution, Sinks, Sources
Influence of nitrogen deposition on the vegetation community of Irish oak woodlands
In this study, the influence of N deposition on the vegetation community of semi-natural oak woodlands in Ireland was assessed through national and regional scale analysis of forest plot data. At both scales, Canonical Correspondence Analysis suggested that N deposition was a predictor of community composition, although site-specific soil characteristics were the strongest predictors of the species dataset. Threshold Indicator Taxon Analysis suggested that the vegetation community demonstrated the most change at 13.2 kg N ha-1 yr-1. While this change point falls within the current recommended critical load range for nutrient nitrogen for acidophilous oak dominated woodlands (10 to 15 kg N ha-1 yr-1), it is notable that 23% of species recorded had individual change points below this range, and could potentially be lost from this habitat if deposition increases. The results from this study suggest that, for acidophilous oak woodlands, habitat conservation policies should be unified with N emission reduction policies. Author Keywords: community composition, critical load, nitrogen depositioin, oak woodland, species richness, Taxon Indicator Threshold Analysis
Risk of Mortality for the Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) Throughout Its Life Cycle
Three long-term mark and recapture/resight data sets of individually marked Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) were analyzed using Cormack-Jolly- Seber models. Data came from two breeding populations (Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, n=982, and Egg Island, Alaska, USA, n=84) and one overwintering population (Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA, n=62). For Alaska and Georgia, time-invariant models were best-supported, giving annual survival estimates of 0.67 (95%C.I.: 0.58- 0.76) and 0.59 (95%C.I.: 0.49-0.67) respectively. Data from Manitoba supported a timedependent model: survival estimates varied from 1.00 to 0.36, with lowest estimates from recent years, supporting observations of local population decline. Seasonal survival analysis of the Georgia population indicated lower mortality during winter (monthly Φoverwinter: 0.959, 95%CI: 0.871-0.988; for 6 month period Φoverwinter: 0.780 (0.440-0.929)) than during combined breeding and migratory periods (monthly ΦBreeding+Migration: 0.879 (0.825-0.918); for 8 month ΦBreeding+Migration: 0356 (0.215-0.504)). I recommend, based on high resight rates, continued monitoring of survival of wintering populations, to determine potential range-wide population declines. Keywords: survival, longevity, mortality, shorebird, overwinter, breeding, migration, life cycle Author Keywords: life cycle, longevity, mortality, non-breeding, shorebird, survival
Bioremoval of copper and nickel on living and non-living Eugelna gracilis
This study assesses the ability of a unicellular protist, Euglena gracilis, to remove Cu and Ni from solution in mono- and bi-metallic systems. Living Euglena cells and non-living Euglena biomass were examined for their capacity to sorb metal ions. Adsorption isotherms were used in batch systems to describe the kinetic and equilibrium characteristics of metal removal. In living systems results indicate that the sorption reaction occurs quickly (<30 min) in both Cu (II) and Ni (II) mono-metallic systems and adsorption follows a pseudo-second order kinetics model for both metals. Sorption capacity and intensity was greater for Cu than Ni (p < 0.05) and were described by the Freundlich model. In bi-metallic systems sorption of both metals appears equivalent. In non-living systems sorption occurred quickly (10-30 min) and both Cu and Ni equilibrium uptake increased with a concurrent increase of initial metal concentrations. The pseudo-first-order model was applied to the kinetic data and the Langmuir and Freundlich models effectively described single-metal systems. The biosorption capacity of Cu (II) and) was 3x times greater than that of Ni (II). Sorption of one metal in the presence of relatively high concentrations of the other metal was supressed. Generally, it was found that living Euglena remove Cu and Ni more efficiently than non-living Euglena biomass in both mono- and bi-metallic systems. It is anticipated that this work should contribute to the identification of baseline uptake parameters and capacities for Cu and Ni by Euglena as well as to the increasing amount of research investigating sustainable bioremediation. Author Keywords: accumulation, biosorption, Cu, Euglena gracilis, kinetics, Ni


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