Hypolimnetic oxygen depletion has been accelerated in many lakes due to cultural eutrophication. However, the extent and magnitude of environmental change is difficult to ascertain due to the lack of historical records. Larval Chironomidae (Diptera) are useful proxy indicators of oxygen, as they show a wide range of tolerances to oxygen conditions and their chitinous head capsules preserve well in lake sediments. Using paleolimnological techniques, chironomid assemblages from the surface sediments of 42 southeastern Ontario lakes were related to environmental conditions. Hypolimnetic oxygen conditions, measured as the average end‐of‐summer hypolimnetic dissolved oxygen (AvgDO(Summ)), explained the most variation in the chironomid assemblages, whereas dissolved inorganic carbon, the Anoxic Factor, max. depth and total phosphorus concentrations were also correlated with assemblage composition. Based on the relative abundances of 45 chironomid taxa, a robust, partial least squares (PLS) regression transfer function for AvgDO(Summ) was constructed (r2 = 0.74, r2(jack) = 0.58, n = 40). This new transfer function should allow paleolimnologists to directly track past trends in hypolimnetic oxygen levels.
Lake sediments were sampled