Postglacial record of diatom assemblage changes related to climate in an alpine lake in the northern Rocky Mountains, Canada Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We relate changes in diatom assemblages to Holocene climate since ca. 10 300 cal. years BP at a small (4 ha), alkaline, alpine tundra lake in the Rocky Mountains of northeast British Columbia. A complex of small benthic Fragilaria-type taxa generally dominated the fossil diatom communities reflecting shallow, alkaline, and likely low light conditions resulting from minerogenic turbidity or extensive ice cover throughout the Holocene. Shifts in diatom assemblages occurred with changes in local vegetation, inferred from pollen and stomate records, and shifts in charcoal-inferred fire frequency (e.g., lowering of tree line and reduced fire frequency (approx. 7500 cal. years BP) and establishment of modern alpine tundra (approx. 3500 cal. years BP). Importantly, striking changes in diatom communities (e.g., during the mid-Holocene (approx. 5500 to approx. 3500 cal. years BP) and Medieval Warm Period (approx. AD 800 to approx. AD 1250)) occurred without evidence of vegetation shifts. During these times, diverse periphytic diatoms dominated suggesting improved benthic habitat availability with longer growing seasons and probably reduced alkalinity and turbidity with warmer- and wetter-than-present climates. Diatom analysis from this alpine lake provides a sensitive record of climate-related limnological responses, but also refines our previous understanding of Holocene climate changes in the northern Rocky Mountains inferred from terrestrial-based paleoecological records.Key words: alkalinity, alpine lakes, climate change, diatoms, Holocene, paleolimnology.

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publication date

  • August 2005