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Chironomid and Chaoborus (midge) remains preserved in a dated sediment core from Poplar Bay, Lake of the Woods (LOW), Ontario, Canada, were used to assess the effects of multiple stressors (e.g., recent warming and shoreline development) on water quality over the past ~200 years. As monitoring data for LOW do not extend beyond recent decades, paleolimnological methods are used to reconstruct long-term limnological trends and to establish pre-disturbance conditions. The effects of recent warming and shoreline development on Poplar Bay water quality are examined using an index of hypolimnetic oxygen (O2) status based on the ratio of Chaoborus to chironomid remains (chaob:chir) and a midge-inferred volume-weighted hypolimnetic oxygen (VWHO) model. Our paleolimnological data indicate that hypolimnetic [O2] in Poplar Bay have been historically hypoxic (1-4 mg O2 L-1) but have declined further (generally <2 mg O2 L-1) over the last few decades. Significant relationships between air temperature and midge data indicate that substantial warming starting in the late-1970s has triggered a marked response in the midge assemblages that pre-dates the onset of cottage development (mid-1990s). These findings complement a diatom-based study on the same sediment core, likewise suggesting that recent warming has played a prominent role in structuring limnetic communities. However, it is likely that the full, compounded effects of recent warming and shoreline development have not yet been realized. Our study highlights the complexity of multiple stressor systems, such as Poplar Bay, and emphasizes the benefits of using multiple, independent lines of paleoenvironmental evidence in gaining a more complete understanding of historical water quality.
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