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Quantitative estimates of water tables and soil moisture in Holocene peatlands from testate amoebae

Woodland, Wendy A., Charman, Dan J., Sims, Peter C.
TheHolocene 1998 v.8 no.3 pp. 261-273
Protozoa, correspondence analysis, data collection, environmental factors, fossils, humification, least squares, models, peat, peatlands, prediction, soil water, water table
Changes in surface wetness on Holocene ombrotrophic mires have principally been estimated from plant macrofossils and humification. Testate amoebae (Protozoa: Rhizopoda) provide an additional technique and have the potential to provide improved quantitative estimates of water-table depths and soil moisture. The relationship between hydrology and testate amoebae assemblages from 163 samples on nine British mires is explored using canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Mean annual water-table depth and percentage soil moisture are two of the most important environmental variables related to the distribution of testate amoebae within peat. Transfer functions for these variables are developed using four underlying models; weighted aver aging (WA), tolerance downweighted weighted averaging (WA-Tol), weighted averaging partial least squares (WA-PLS) and partial least squares (PLS). In ‘jack-knifed’ validation, WA produced the lowest prediction errors for water table, but was outperformed by WA-Tol for percentage moisture. WA and WA-Tol based transfer functions are then applied to a fossil data set from Bolton Fell Moss, Cumbria. This methodology offers a new technique for reconstructing surface wetness changes on British ombrotrophic and oligotrophic mires and provides data in terms of a meaningful environmental parameter. The cosmopolitan distribution of testate amoebae species suggests that the technique has a much wider geographical potential.