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Stromatolites in Walker Lake (Nevada, Great Basin, USA) record climate and lake level changes ~ 35,000 years ago
Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology. (ORIGINS AND EARLY DIVERSIFICATION OF PHOTOSYNTHETIC MICROBIOTA)
Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
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2016 (English)In: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, ISSN 0031-0182, E-ISSN 1872-616X, Vol. 451, 140-151 p.Article in journal, Letter (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Walker Lake is a closed-basin remnant of the large Pleistocene glacial Lake Lahontan system that has experienced multiple high amplitude (100–200 m) changes in water level over the past ~ 40,000 years in response to changes in climate. A laminated carbonate stromatolite composed of varying proportions of calcite fans and micrite was collected from a paleoshoreline located at approximately 58 m above present lake level. Radiocarbon dating revealed that the stromatolite spans approximately 2000 years of growth, from 35,227 to 33,727 calibrated years before present (YBP), a time period during which paleolake-level is not well-constrained. Distinct laminae were drilled along the growth axis, and the resulting powders were collected for clumped isotope analyses to generate formation temperatures (lake water temperatures) during stromatolite formation from which δ18Owater was calculated.

Results indicate that the stromatolite experienced an initial increase in temperature and water δ18O values followed by a decrease in both during the course of accretion. The resulting temperature and isotopic data were input into a Rayleigh distillation model for lakewater evaporation in order to estimate the magnitude of lake level and volume fluctuations over the course of accretion. Modeling results reveal a lake level decrease of between 8.1 and 15.6 m, followed by an increase of between 4.3 and 8.8 m during the course of stromatolite growth.

The results of this study indicate that Walker Lake experienced significant lake volume change over the course of 2000 years, perhaps as a response to precipitation changes driven by fluctuations in the polar jet stream and accompanying changes in regional climate, and/or evaporation-induced changes in lake level. These results add to a growing body of research indicating that stromatolites and other lacustrine tufas represent a detailed and extensive terrestrial archive that can potentially be used to reconstruct the timing and magnitude of climate change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 451, 140-151 p.
Keyword [en]
stromatolite; clumped isotope; Walker Lake; Polar Jet Stream; Pleistocene
National Category
Research subject
Earth Science with specialization in Historical Geology and Palaeontology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281153DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.02.054ISI: 000375517800012OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-281153DiVA: diva2:913086
Available from: 2016-03-19 Created: 2016-03-19 Last updated: 2016-08-29Bibliographically approved

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