Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Early Responses of Understory Vegetation to Above Canopy Nitrogen Additions in a Jack Pine Stand in Northern Alberta
Abstract Early Responses of Understory Vegetation After One Year of Above Canopy Nitrogen Additions in a Jack Pine Stand in Northern Alberta Nicole Melong Nitrogen (N) emissions are expected to increase in western Canada due to oil and gas extraction operations. An increase in N exposure could potentially impact the surrounding boreal forest, which has adapted and thrived under traditionally low N deposition. The majority of N addition studies on forest ecosystems apply N to the forest floor and often exclude the important interaction of the tree canopy. This research consisted of aerial NH4NO3 spray applications (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 kg N ha-1yr-1) by helicopter to a jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) stand in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) in northern Alberta, Canada. The main objective was to assess the impacts of elevated N after one year of treatment on the chemistry of understory vegetation, which included vascular plants, terricolous lichens, epiphytic lichens and a terricolous moss species. Changes in vegetation chemistry are expected to be early signs of stress and possible N saturation. Increased N availability is also thought to decrease plant secondary compound production because of a tradeoff that exists between growth and plant defense compounds when resources become available. Approximately 60% of applied N reached the ground vegetation in throughfall (TF) and stemflow (SF). Nitrate was the dominant form of N in TF in all treated plots and organic N (ON) was the dominant form of N in SF in all plots. The terricolous non-vascular species were the only understory vegetation that responded to the N treatments as N concentration increased with increased treatment. Foliar chemistry of the measured epiphytic lichens, vascular species, and jack pine was unaffected by the N treatments. Based on biomass measurements and N concentration increases, the non-vascular terricolous species appear to be assimilating the majority of TF N after one year. Vegetation from the high treatment plot (25 kg N ha-1yr-1) was compared to a jack pine forest receiving ambient high levels of N (21 kg N ha-1yr-1) due to its proximity to Syncrude mining activities. Nitrogen concentrations in plant tissues did not differ between the two sites; however, other elements and compounds differed significantly (Ca, Mg, Al, Fe). After one year of experimental N application, there were no environmental impacts consistent with the original N saturation hypothesis. Author Keywords: Athabasca Oil Sands Region, Canopy Interactions, Jack Pine, Nitrogen, Secondary Chemistry, Understory Vegetation
Eco-evolutionary Dynamics in a Commercially Exploited Freshwater Fishery
Fisheries assessment and management approaches have historically focused on individual species over relatively short timeframes. These approaches are being improved upon by considering the potential effects of both broader ecological and evolutionary processes. However, only recently has the question been raised of how ecological and evolutionary processes might interact to further influence fisheries yield and sustainability. My dissertation addresses this gap in our knowledge by investigating the role of eco-evolutionary dynamics in a commercially important lake whitefish fishery in the Laurentian Great Lakes, a system that has undergone substantial ecosystem change. First, I link the timing of large-scale ecological change associated with a species invasion with shifts in key density-dependent relationships that likely reflect declines in the population carrying capacity using a model selection approach. Then, using an individual-based model developed for lake whitefish in the southern main basin of Lake Huron, I demonstrate how ecosystem changes that lower growth and recruitment potential are predicted to reduce population productivity and sustainable harvest rates through demographic and plastic mechanisms. By further incorporating an evolutionary component within an eco-genetic model, I show that ecological conditions also affect evolutionary responses in maturation to harvest by altering selective pressures. Finally, using the same eco-genetic model, I provide a much-needed validation of the robustness of the probabilistic maturation reaction norm (PMRN) approach, an approach that is widely used to assess maturation and infer its evolution, to ecological and evolutionary processes experienced by exploited stocks in the wild. These findings together highlight the important role that ecological conditions play, not only in determining fishery yield and sustainability, but also in shaping evolutionary responses to harvest. Future studies evaluating the relative effects of ecological and evolutionary change and how these processes interact in harvested populations, especially with respect to freshwater versus marine ecosystems, could be especially valuable. Author Keywords: Coregonus clupeaformis, density-dependent growth, fisheries-induced evolution, individual-based eco-genetic model, Lake Huron, stock-recruitment
Ecological and morphological traits that affect the fitness and dispersal potential of Iberian pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)
The Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) is a sunfish that is endemic to eastern portions of Canada and the United States. During the late 19th century, the species was introduced into Europe, and it is now present in over 28 countries. Previous attempts to determine the characteristics that can predict the spread of non-indigenous species have been largely unsuccessful, but new evidence suggests that phenotypic plasticity may help to explain the dispersal and range expansion of some organisms. Experimental comparisons on lower-order taxa have revealed that populations from areas outside of their native range are capable of exhibiting stronger levels of phenotypic plasticity than counterparts from their source of origin. Using Pumpkinseed, I conducted the first native/non- native comparison of phenotypic plasticity in a vertebrate. Progeny from adult Pumpkinseed collected in Ontario, Canada and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) were reared under variable water velocities, habitat type and competitive pressures, three ecological factors that may affect the dispersal potential of fishes introduced into novel aquatic systems. Differences in phenotypic plasticity, assessed from a morphological perspective, were compared among populations using a traditional distance-based approach. All populations exhibited divergent morphological traits that appeared to be inherited over successive generations. In each experiment, all populations responded to environmental change by developing internal and external morphological forms that, in related taxa, enhance and facilitate foraging and navigation; however, non-native populations always exhibited an overall lower level of phenotypic plasticity. Pumpkinseed from non-native areas may have exhibited a reduction in phenotypic plasticity because of population-based differences. Nevertheless, all Pumpkinseed populations studied were capable of exhibiting phenotypic plasticity to novel environmental conditions, and develop morphological characteristics that may enhance fitness and dispersal in perturbed areas. Author Keywords: Invasive species, Morphology, Phenotypic plasticity, Pumpkinseed sunfish, Reaction norm
Ecosystem Response to Above Canopy Nitrogen Addition in a Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) Forest in the Athabasca Bituminous Sands Region of Northeastern Alberta, Canada
In this study we seek to better understand the potential effects of short-term (5-year) N fertilization on jack pine forest biogeochemistry, vascular plant community composition and to project a temporal endpoint of nitrogen leaching below the major rooting zone. Aqueous ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) was applied above the forest canopy across five treatment plots (20 x 80 m) four times annually. The experimental deposition gradient followed those known for localized areas around the major open pit operations at 0, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 kg N ha-1 yr-1 over a five-year period (2011 – 2015). Nitrate recovery in throughfall was significantly higher than NH4+ (p < 0.05), indicating canopy NH4+ immobilization. There was a strong treatment effect (p < 0.05) of N on the epiphytic lichen thalli concentrations of Hypogymnia physodes and Evernia mesomorpha after five years. The canopy appeared to approach saturation at the highest deposition load (25 kg N ha-1 yr-1) during the fifth year of N additions as most N added above the canopy was accounted for in throughfall and stemflow. The non-vascular (lichen and moss) vegetation pool above the forest floor was the largest receptor of N as cryptogam foliar and thalli N concentrations showed a significant treatment effect (p < 0.05). Nitrogen in decomposing litter (25 kg N ha-1 yr-1) remained immobilized after five years, while treatments ≤ 20 kg N ha-1 yr-1 started to mobilize. Understory vascular plant cover expansion was muted when deposition was ≥ 10 kg N ha-1 yr-1. Finally, modeling suggests the forest may not leach N below the rooting zone until around 50 years after chronic addition begin (25 kg N ha-1 yr-1). The modeling results are consistent with empirical data from a high exposure (~20 - 25 kg N ha-1 yr-1) jack pine site approximately 12 km west of the experimental site that has not yet experienced N leaching. Author Keywords: Biogeochemistry, Canopy, Deposition, Jack Pine, Nitrogen, Understory
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
Effect of Attending a Virtual Oncology Camp on Childhood Cancer Patient's Pyshcosocial Functioning and Parental Stress - A Pilot Study
Objectives/purpose: The current study examined whether attending a 1-month virtual oncology camp (VOC) improved resilience and hope in childhood cancer patients and parental/caregiver stress. Methods:Childhood cancer patients/survivors and their parent/caregivers enrolled for VOC, participated in an online anonymous survey: before, after and 3-months after VOC. The survey included the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) and the Snyder’s Children’s Hope Scale (CHS) for the childhood cancer patients/survivors and the Pediatric Inventory for Parents (PIP) for parent/caregivers. Results:CYRM scores increased from T1 to T2 (d=0.86). Compared to T1, at T2 CHS scores also increased (d=1.33). Both CHS and CYRM scores remained higher at T3 compared with T1 (d=1.34; d=0.86). There were no changes in PIP scores between any time points. Conclusion and significance: Our study demonstrated that participation in a VOC improved children’s resilience and hope but did not change parental stress. Highlighting the clinical significance of these VOCs and the impacts they have on childhood cancer patients/survivors. Author Keywords: cancer, children, hope, parental stress, resilience, virtual oncology camp
Effect of Carbon Source and Phytohormones on the in vitro Growth of Euglena Gracilis
Microalgae are a promising source of valuable compounds relevant to biofuels, biomaterials, nutraceuticals as well as animal and human nutriment. Unfortunately, low cell density and slow growth result in reduced economic feasibility. Heterotrophic cell culturing using an organic carbon source in lieu of light has proven to be an effective alternative to photobioreactors; however, further improvement may be possible with the addition of growth promoting phytohormones. In this thesis, growth and endogenous hormone profiles in heterotrophic cultures of Euglena gracilis were evaluated using glucose and ethanol as carbon sources. Cytokinin (CK) and abscisic acid (ABA) were quantified by HPLC-ESI-MS/MS and compared to culture growth dynamics. Exogenous phytohormones treatments were also conducted to determine if they may mitigate nutrient reduction and improve growth. Phytohormones CK and ABA were purified and analyzed at seven points along the growth curve in small scale (250 mL flasks, 100 mL working volume) cultures. Among the key findings was that ethanol cultures undergoing exponential growth, primarily synthesize freebase cytokinins (FBCKs) and methylthiol-cytokinins (MeSCKs), while not producing detectable levels of ABA. In exogenous studies, dry biomass was positively influenced with the addition of exogenous ABA; however, the most notable result revealed the ability of transZ to alleviate nutrient reduction. These findings suggest a communication network in algal culture using FBCKs and MeSCKs, as well as the potential for exogenous hormone supplementation to increase growth rates and overall biomass productivity. Author Keywords: abscisic acid, cytokinin, Euglena gracilis, heterotrophy, phytohormones
Effect of Nitrosative Stress on Heme Protein Expression and Localization in Giardia Intestinalis
The parasitic protist Giardia intestinalis has five heme proteins: a flavohemoglobin and several isotypes of cytochrome b5. While the flavohemoglobin has a role in counteracting nitric oxide, the functions of the cytochromes (gCYTb5s) are unknown. In this study, the protein level and cellular localization of three gCYTB5 isotypes (gCYTb5-I, II and III) and flavohemoglobin were examined in Giardia trophozoites exposed to three nitrosative stressors at two different concentrations: nitrite (20 mM, 0.5 mM); GSNO (2 mM, 0.25 mM) and DETA-NONOate (2 mM, 0.05 mM). An increase in protein levels was observed for gCYTb5-II with all stressors at both concentrations. However, the effects of these nitrosative stressors on gCYTb5-I and III were inconclusive due to the variation among the replicates and the poor detection of gCYTb5- III on western blots. The protein level of the flavohemoglobin also increased in response to the three stressors at the low concentrations of stressors that were tested. Only the cellular localization of gCYTb5-I changed in response to nitrosative stress, where it moved from the nucleolus to the nucleus and cytoplasm. This response was extremely sensitive and occurred at the lower doses of the three stressors, suggesting that gCYTb5-I may be involved in a nucleolar- based stress response. Author Keywords:
Effect of SP600125 JNK Inhibitor on Cadmium-Treated Mouse Embryo Forelimb Bud Cells In Vitro
This study investigated the role of the JNK signaling pathway in cadmium-treated mouse embryo forelimb bud cells in vitro. Primary cultures of forelimb bud cells harvested at day 11 of gestation were pre-treated with JNK inhibitor SP600125, and incubated with or without CdCl2 for 15, 30, 60, 120 minutes and 24, 48 hours or 5 days. Endpoints of toxicity were measured through cell differentiation by Alcian Blue Assay and phosphorylation of JNK proteins by Western blot. The results demonstrated that, in the cell differentiation assay, inhibiting JNK activation by 20 μM SP600125 causes an enhanced toxic effect in limb cells and inhibits cell differentiation, whereas 2 μM decreases differentiated nodule numbers under both cadmium stress and normal conditions. In conclusion, the JNK pathway has an essential role in the differentiation processes of limb bud cells in normal growth conditions. Author Keywords: Cadmium, Cell Signaling, JNK, Limbs, Mouse Embryo, Teratology
Effect of Water Surface Simulated Rain Drop Impacts on Water to Air Chemical Transfers of Perfluorinated Carboxylic Acids (PFCAs)
Perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) are anthropogenic environmentally ubiquitous surfactants that tend to concentrate on water surfaces. This investigation looked at the effect of simulated rain on the atmospheric concentration of a suite of PFCAs (C2 - C12) above the bulk water system. Increased air concentrations of all PFCAs were detected during simulated rain events. Long chain PFCAs (>C8) were found to be much more concentrated in the air above the bulk water system than their short chain counter parts (
Effect of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on embryogenesis and anuran survivorship in frog virus 3 infected tadpoles
Exposure of pre-metamorphic amphibians to neonicotinoid insecticides may be contributing to the global decline in amphibian populations. In this study, anuran embryos and tadpoles of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) and the North American leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) were used to determine the effects of embryonic exposure to neonicotinoids. In addition, Xenopus was used to determine if prolonged exposure to neonicotinoids influenced tadpole sensitivity to frog virus 3 (FV3). Exposure of anuran embryos to concentrations of the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, ranging from 1 -20 ppm induced a concentration dependent increase in malformations of the retina in Xenopus embryos. However, similar responses were not observed with embryos of leopard frogs. Exposure of Xenopus tadpoles to 500 ppb concentration of imidacloprid followed by challenge with FV3 showed that pesticide exposure unexpectedly decreased the rates of mortality, although total mortalities by the end of the experiment were not significantly different from controls. This unexpected observation may be attributed to a reduced inflammatory response induced by exposure to imidacloprid. Despite the low acute toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to vertebrates, these studies indicate that exposure to this class of insecticides causes sublethal effects in anuran species during early life stages. Author Keywords: embryogenesis, Lithobates pipiens, neonicotinoid, ranavirus, tadpole, Xenopus laevis
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


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