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Keywords:

  • diatoms;
  • dissolved organic carbon;
  • Ellesmere Island;
  • high Arctic oasis;
  • paleolimnology;
  • polar desert

Arctic oases are regions of atypical warmth and relatively high biological production and diversity. They are small in area (<5 km2) and uncommon in occurrence, yet they are relatively well studied due to the abundance of plant and animal life contained within them. A notable exception is the lack of research on freshwater ecosystems within polar oases. Here, we aim to increase our understanding of freshwater diatom ecology in polar oases. Diatoms were identified and enumerated from modern sediments collected in 23 lakes and ponds contained within the Lake Hazen oasis on Ellesmere Island, and compared with diatom assemblages from 29 sites located outside of the oasis across the northern portion of the island. There were significant differences in water chemistry variables between oasis and northern sites, with oasis sites having higher conductivity and greater concentrations of nutrients and related variables such as dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Taxa across all sites were typical of those recorded in Arctic freshwaters, with species from the genera Achnanthes sensu lato, Fragilaria sensu lato, and Nitzschia dominating the assemblages. A correspondence analysis (CA) ordination showed that oasis sites generally plotted separately from the northern sites, although the sites also appear to plot separately based on whether they were lakes or ponds. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) identified specific conductivity, DOC, and SiO2 as explaining significant (< 0.05) and additional amounts of variation in the diatom data set. The most robust diatom-based inference model was generated for DOC, which will provide useful reconstructions on long-term changes in paleo-optics of high Arctic lakes.