Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Effects of Agricultural Land Use Change on Nitrogen and Phosphorus in North Shore Lake Ontario Tributaries
Row crop agriculture and associated land use practices including tile drainage and conservation tillage have been cited as a probable cause of re-emerging eutrophication in the lower Great Lakes. In this thesis, I sought to quantify and evaluate the effect of agricultural land cover and land use changes on total phosphorus (TP) and nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations and export in north shore Lake Ontario tributaries. This included (a) a long-term data analyses at 12 large watersheds (47 to 278 km²) using historical land cover and water quality data (1971-2010), and (b) a space-for-time study examining 12 small sub-catchments (< 8 km²) with majority (> 50%) row crop, pasture, or forest cover. Concentrations of TP were greatest in urbanized watersheds and declined particularly during the first decades of the study period, while NO3-N concentrations were greatest and steadily increased in agricultural catchments with increasing row crop cover. The space-for-time approach revealed that TP concentrations were similar across agricultural land uses and that export was most dependent on runoff. Meanwhile, NO3-N concentrations and export were greatest in row crop catchments and were positively related to row crop area. These results suggest that increases in row crop cover and associated agricultural practices including increased nutrient amendments and tile drainage may be responsible for increased NO3-N concentrations and export in northern Lake Ontario tributaries. Author Keywords: agriculture, Lake Ontario, nitrogen, phosphorus, streams, Water quality
Effects of Geographic Factors on the Wild Harvest of Large Mammals across North America
While the harvest of mammals is monitored in each jurisdiction across Canada and the USA, there has been no analysis of this wild harvest at a continental scale across North America. The recreational wild harvest of large mammals varies geographically across North America, and I hypothesized that this variation is influenced by both anthropogenic and other environmental factors on the landscape. I tested this hypothesis using annual harvest tallies collected by Conservation Visions Inc. for mammals for each state, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction in Canada and the USA. I built multiple additive models of the harvest, in one harvest year, 2015 – 2016, to test for landscape gradients that explain the variation in harvest levels for seven large mammal species: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), black bear (Ursus americanus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), elk (Cervus canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), and moose (Alces alces). I built these models from a suite of nine putative predictor variables that comprised landcover, human footprint, and evapotranspiration. For all large mammal species except for pronghorn, anthropogenic influence had a positive effect on the wild harvest density, consistent with the idea that the proximity of human populations and roads are important for fostering wild harvest activity by providing hunters access to hunting areas. The harvest of white-tailed deer, elk, and pronghorn were negatively affected by vegetation structure, urbanization, and primary productivity, respectively. Understanding the recreational wild harvest at a broad-spatial scale provides a unique perspective of the North American model of wildlife conservation and spurs future comparative analyses of the wild harvest across spatial scales. Author Keywords: Anthropogenic Influence, Hunting, Large Mammals, Primary Productivity, Vegetation Structure, Wild Harvest
Effects of Hydroelectric Corridors on the Distribution of Female Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) on the Island of Newfoundland
A species of concern is caribou (Rangifer tarandus), a species in decline across most of the circumpolar North, including the island of Newfoundland. Resource exploitation across caribou ranges is projected to accelerate in the coming decades as oil extraction, roads, forest harvesting, and mining encroach upon their habitat. Hydroelectric corridors, in particular, are anticipated to expand significantly. The effects of these linear developments on caribou habitat remain unclear. I capitalized on an existing dataset of nearly 700 radio‐tracked female caribou, 1980‐2011, to determine the long‐term effects of hydroelectric corridors on their seasonal distributions. Using an island-wide landcover map, I tested for preference or avoidance hydroelectric corridors in each of 4 seasons using the Euclidean Distance habitat selection technique at the extent of the population ranges (broad scale) for each decade (1980s, 1990s, 2000s). I also examined the distribution of caribou ≤10 km and ≤20 km from corridors (narrow scale) for five herds. At the broad scale, the response was highly variable. Female caribou were most likely to avoid corridors during the 1980s, but they often exhibited little aversion, even preference for corridors, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s. Hydroelectric corridors, therefore, did not appear to be limiting at this scale. I surmise that these long-term shifts reflect the heightened density-dependent food limitation for Newfoundland caribou. At the narrow scale, avoidance of corridors was common – typically, a 50% reduction in use within 2-5 km of the corridor. Consistent with the broad scale, caribou exhibited the strongest tendency for avoidance in the 1980s compared to subsequent decades. Understanding space-use remains central to the study of caribou ecology. Hydroelectric lines in Newfoundland tended to coincide with other anthropogenic features. Cumulative effects must be considered to understand the full range of effects by human developments on caribou. Author Keywords: Caribou, distribution, habitat, hydroelectric, Newfoundland, Rangifer tarandus
Effects of Intensive Agriculture on Stream Nutrient Export in East-Central Ontario, Canada
Recent agricultural land use change in east-central Ontario, including the expansion of intensive agriculture (corn and soybean crops) and tile drainage (TD) infrastructure, may alter the fluxes of both phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) to the Lower Great Lakes. Through intensive monitoring of several sub-watersheds that encompassed a range of row crop and TD extents, this study examined differences in stream N and P concentrations both seasonally and during variable flow conditions, to better understand land use/land cover (LULC) relationships with nutrient export. There was no clear relationship between total P (TP; concentration or export) and agricultural LULC, and instead, TP delivery was highly sensitive to flow events, and TP concentrations (especially particulate P; PP) were significantly higher during event flow compared with baseflow. In contrast, the dissolved fraction of P (total dissolved P; TDP) and dissolved nitrogen as nitrate (NO3-N) were not sensitive to flow, but were instead positively related to row crop agriculture, and associations between NO3-N concentrations/export and tile-drained row crop area were particularly strong (concentration r2 = 0.93; export r2 = 0.88). Regression relationships showed that with every 10% increase in row crop area in watersheds, NO3-N and TDP flow-weighted concentrations increased by 0.34 mg/L and 1.5 µg/L, respectively. As well, the same 10% increase in row crop agriculture translated to an increase of NO3-N export of as much as 130 kg/km2. Geospatial records of TD are incomplete in east-central Ontario, which presents challenges for evaluating the contribution of TD to nutrient export. Understanding the response of nutrients to changes in agriculture and agricultural practices is an integral part of watershed management as rapid changes in both urban and agricultural LULC continue to put pressure on water quality in the Lower Great Lakes. Author Keywords: East-Central Ontario, Nutrient Export, Row crops, Streams, Tile Drainage, Water Quality
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
Effects of Local, Landscape, and Temporal Variables on Bobolink Nest Survival in Southern Ontario
Populations of grassland birds, including the Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), are experiencing steep declines due to losses of breeding habitat, land use changes, and agricultural practices. Understanding the variables affecting reproductive success can aid conservation of grassland species. I investigated 1) whether artificial nest experiments accurately estimate the impacts of cattle on the daily survival rate of Bobolink nests and 2) which local, landscape, and temporal variables affect daily survival rate of Bobolink nests in Southern Ontario. I replicated an artificial nest experiment performed in 2012 and 2015 to compare the daily survival rate of artificial and natural nests at multiple stocking rates (number of cattle × days × ha-1). I also monitored Bobolink nests and modeled daily survival rate using local variables (e.g., stocking rate, field use, patch area), landscape variables (e.g., percent forest within 2, 5, and 10 km), and temporal variables (e.g., year, date of season). Results indicate that artificial nest experiments using clay shooting targets overestimated the impacts of stocking rate on the daily survival rate of Bobolink nests. With natural nests, region (confounded by year and field use), stocking rate, and date of season were the strongest predictors of daily survival rate; with stocking rate and date of season both having a negative effect. Management should focus on conserving pastures with low stocking rates (< 40 cattle × days × ha-1), late-cut hayfields, fallow fields, and other grasslands to protect breeding grounds for the Bobolink and other declining grassland bird species. Author Keywords: Bobolink, Daily survival rate, landscape variables, local variables, Nest survival, temporal variables
Effects of Opioids on the Development and Reproductive Capacity of Japanese Medaka, Oryzias latipes
Opioid drugs are among the microcontaminants that are discharged with domestic wastewater into the aquatic environment with the potential to affect the development and reproductive capacity of aquatic organisms. To study the effects of exposure of fish to opioid drugs, Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) were exposed over a full life cycle to environmentally relevant (i.e. ng/L) concentrations of two opioids, codeine and fentanyl. Acute exposure of early life stage (ELS) of medaka to codeine resulted in slightly extended times to hatch, but no increase in embryo mortalities or reduced hatching success. Chronic exposure to codeine at a nominal concentration of 25,000 ng/L over a full life cycle interfered with growth, reducing the weight of the fish at maturity. Life cycle treatments with codeine at all test concentrations resulted in a significant reduction in the number of eggs produced in reproductive trials, as well as a reduction in the numbers of mature oocytes in adult females. High treatments with codeine also increased the percentage of immature sperm cells in adult males. Life cycle exposures to codeine also resulted in reduced whole-body concentrations of several hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis hormones, including reduced levels of luteinizing hormone in male and female fish and a reduction in 11-ketotestosterone in males and 17β-estradiol in females. Fentanyl did not affect reproduction or HPG hormones at the exposure concentrations tested, but high fentanyl exposures increased the mortality rate among ELS’s of the F1 generation offspring from life cycle exposed adults. The results of this thesis contribute to the literature on the environmental impacts of microcontaminants of wastewater origin and, the potential for effects in fish exposed to opioids.Keywords: Opioids, microcontaminants, fentanyl, codeine, sexual development, reproduction. Author Keywords: codeine, fentanyl, microcontaminants, opioids, reproduction, sexual development
Effects of Recycled Media on Culture Growth and Hormone Profiles in Heterotrophic Euglena gracilis
The rapid expansion of the worldwide population has caused an urgent need for the development of new, more environment-conscious, food sources. In this context, algae, such as Euglena, are of interest thanks to their capacity to naturally produce essential nutrients such as proteins and oils commonly found in animals and plant sources. While these processes are currently being investigated, underlying measures affecting growth of Euglena gracilis like hormonal influences and growth stress like nutrient deprivation are poorly understood. From this vantage point, this thesis seeks to understand the role of phytohormones cytokinin (CKs) and abscisic acid (ABA) in complex mechanisms underlying heterotrophic growth of Euglena gracilis under recycled, organic media conditions with no supplementation. Hormone profiles were quantified by HPLC-ESI-MS/MS and compared to culture growth dynamics of pH, weight accumulation, glucose content, cell count and morphology. It was expected that ABA acted as an inhibitory hormone and this was confirmed by its higher levels when CKs where low and vice versa. Contrastingly, it was expected that CKs stimulated growth, in which this was shown not to be the case. Interestingly, it was revealed that both hormone groups increase with increasing recycling. Other key findings include: E. gracilis synthesizes CKs via the tRNA-degradation pathway and is cZ and iP dominated, recycling E. gracilis medium is viable for growth, however, the percentage (25% or less) is crucial to cell viability and markedly no ABA was detected in E. gracilis pellet fractions from recycled media. Therefore, this data revealed that recycled media has a striking influence on physiological aspects of growth and illustrated unique changes in hormone profiles of which could be manipulated to help the food industry. Author Keywords: cytokinin, endogenous hormones, Euglena gracilis, heterotrophic, large scale microalgae cultivation, recycled medium
Effects of Silver Nanoparticles on Lake Bacterioplankton
Silver nanoparticles (AgNP) released into aquatic environments could threaten natural bacterial communities and ecosystem services they provide. We examined natural lake bacterioplankton communities' responses to different exposures (pulse vs chronic) and types (citrate and PVP) of AgNPs at realistic environmental conditions using a mesocosm study at the Experimental Lakes Area. An in situ bioassay examined interactions between AgNPs and phosphorus loading. Bacterial communities exposed to high AgNP concentrations regardless of exposure or capping agent type accumulated silver. We observed increases in community production during additions of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) -capped AgNPs and that site and nutrient-specific conditions are important to AgNPs toxicology in aquatic systems. Toxicological effects of AgNP are attenuated in natural conditions and differ from results from laboratory studies of AgNP toxicity. Our results demonstrate more studies are needed to fully assess the risk posed by these novel chemicals to the environment. This work could be useful in forming risk assessment policies which are largely based on lab studies and typically demonstrate strong toxic effects. Author Keywords: bacterial production, bacterioplankton communities, ecological stoichiometry, Experimental Lakes Area, mesocosms, silver nanoparticles
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
Effects of flooding on nutrient budgets and ecosystem services
Increases in flooding due to anthropogenic influences such as climate change and reservoir creation will undoubtedly impact aquatic ecosystems, affecting physical, chemical, and biological processes. We used two approaches to study these impacts: a whole-ecosystem reservoir flooding experiment and a systematic literature review. In the whole-ecosystem experiment, we analyzed the impact of flooding on nutrient release from stored organic matter in an upland forest. We found that flooded organic matter produced N (nitrogen) and P (phosphorus), but that more N was released relative to P, increasing the N:P ratio over time. In the systematic literature review, we linked small (<10 year recurrence interval) and extreme (>100 year recurrence interval) floods to changes in 10 aquatic ecosystem services. Generally, extreme floods negatively impacted aquatic ecosystem service provisioning, while small floods contributed positively. Overall, we found that flood impacts vary depending on ecosystem properties (organic matter content) and flood characteristics (magnitude). Author Keywords: ecosystem services, flooding, nutrients, reservoirs, rivers
Effects of hydrologic seasonality on dissolved organic matter composition, export, and biodegradability in two contrasting streams
Environmental and seasonal processes are important watershed drivers controlling the amount, composition, and fate of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in aquatic ecosystems. We used ten months of water samples and eight months of bioassay incubations from two contrasting catchments (agriculture and natural, forested) to assess the effects of seasonal variability on the composition, export, and biodegradability of DOM. As expected, the DOM composition and exports were more allochthonous-like and autochthonous-like in the forest and agriculture streams, respectively. However, we found no relationship between DOM composition and biodegradability in our study, suggesting that broad environmental factors play a large part in determining bioavailability of DOM. We found that both differences between the catchments and seasonal variability in hydrology and water temperature cause shifts in DOM composition that can affect exports and potentially affect its susceptibility to microbial activity. More research is needed to fully understand the impact of land use and temporal variability on bioavailability and delivery to downstream ecosystems. Author Keywords: Bioavailable dissolved organic carbon, Biodegradability, Dissolved organic matter, Export, Seasonality, Streams


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