Testate amoebae as a proxy for reconstructing Holocene water table dynamics in southern Patagonian peat bogs

Simon Van Bellen, Dmitri Mauquoy, Richard J. Payne, Thomas P. Roland, Tim J. Daley, Paul D.M. Hughes, Neil J. Loader, F. Alayne Street-Perrott, Emma M. Rice, Veronica A. Pancotto

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Testate amoebae are abundant and diverse in Sphagnum peat bogs and have been used extensively as indicators of past water table depths. Although these unicellular protists are widely dispersed with globally similar hydrological preferences, regional variations in communities demand region-specific transfer functions. Here we present the first transfer function for southern Patagonian bogs, based on 154 surface samples obtained from transects in five bogs sampled in 2012 and 2013. Significant variance was explained by pH, electrical conductivity and, in particular, water table depth. Transfer functions for water table were constructed using weighted averaging and evaluated by cross-validation and independent test sets. The optimal transfer function has predictive ability, but relatively high prediction errors given the wide range in sampled water tables. The use of independent test sets, as well as cross-validation, allows a more rigorous assessment of model performance than most previous studies. For a subset of locations we compare surface and subsurface samples to demonstrate significant differences in community composition, possibly due to vertical zonation. Our results provide the first quantification of hydrological optima and tolerances for several rare species, which may include Southern Hemisphere endemics and pave the way for palaeohydrological reconstructions in southern Patagonian bogs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-474
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funded by
Natural Environment Research Council. Grant Numbers: NE/I022809/1, NE/I022981/1, NE/I022833/1, NE/I023104/1
Ricardo Muza and the Wildlife Conservation Society
Karukinka Park

This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant numbers NE/I022809/1, NE/I022981/1, NE/I022833/1 and NE/I023104/1). We thank Ricardo Muza and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Karukinka Park rangers for facilitating access to Karukinka Park. We also thank François De Vleeschouwer, Gaël Le Roux, Heleen Vanneste, Sébastien Bertrand, Zakaria Ghazoui and Jean-Yves De Vleeschouwer for fieldwork assistance. Nelson Bahamonde (INIA, Punta Arenas, Chile) and Ernesto Teneb (UMag, Punta Arenas, Chile) provided logistical support for the fieldwork in Chile. Dr Andrea Coronato (CADIC, Ushuaia) kindly provided logistical support for the research in Argentina. Thanks to Jenny Johnston for cartography, David Jolley for assistance in microscopic photography and Audrey Innes for laboratory assistance. We highly appreciate reviews by Matt Amesbury and an anonymous reviewer. R.P. is supported by an Impact Fellowship from the University of Stirling.


  • peat
  • testate amoeba
  • Tierra del Fuego
  • transfer function
  • water table


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