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Midges send undeniable message -- planet is warming

.5 meters) deep.

The scientists collected sediment in cylindrical plastic tubes, gathering several samples from each lake. They didn't need much sediment just four inches (10 cm) of lake-bottom residue can represent nearly 100 years' worth of sedimentation, Porinchu said.

"The amount of sediment that trickles out of the water column to the bottom of these lakes every year is so low because these lakes are at such high elevations few, if any, trees grow at these elevations," he said. "There just isn't much material entering the lakes."

Once they were back in the laboratory, the researchers sliced the sediment cores into thin slivers about 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) thick. Each sliver represents a five or 10-year span, Porinchu said. They calculated the age of single sediment layers by using lead-210, an isotope of lead that decays at a constant rate and, therefore, can serve as a chronological aid.

Using a microscope, the researchers then searched the sediment for larval remains of the midges. Specifically, they were looking for larval head capsules, which are made of a hard, semi-transparent material called chitin. These head capsules become embedded in sediment once they are shed. Chitin, also a component of insect exoskeletons and the shells of crustaceans, doesn't readily degrade in the sediment of these lakes.

The researchers determined the type of midges that lived in the lakes based on specific variations in certain head capsule structures, such as differences in the number, size, shape and orientation of teeth.

"In the upper layers of most of the sediment samples those representing the last 25 to 30 years we see head capsules from midges that normally thrive in slightly warmer water temperatures," Porinchu said. "And the cooler-water midges have nearly, or completely, disappeared."

Surface water temperatures in these lakes have risen anywhere from 0.5 to 1 degree since the 1980s.

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Contact: David Porinchu
Porinchu.1@osu.edu
614-247-2614
Ohio State University
11-Dec-2006


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