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Abrupt environmental change in Canada’s northernmost lake inferred from fossil diatom and pigment stratigraphy

Authors


Abstract

[1] An analysis of diatoms and fossil pigments in a sediment core from perennially ice-covered Ward Hunt Lake at latitude 83°N in Nunavut, Canada revealed striking changes in diatom communities and sedimentary pigment concentrations during the last two centuries. Diatoms were found only in the upper 2.5 cm of the sedimentary record, and where present, diatom assemblages were composed almost entirely of Staurosirella pinnata. Photosynthetic pigments were present in low concentrations throughout the sedimentary profile, consistent with the ultra-oligotrophic nutrient status of the lake. Pigment concentrations varied slightly in the lower sections of the core, and began to increase gradually at the 4 cm horizon followed by an increase of two orders of magnitude in the uppermost 2.5 cm. The changes observed in the sedimentary record of Ward Hunt Lake had similar trajectories to those observed post-1850 elsewhere in the circumpolar Arctic, and imply that aquatic communities even in the most extreme northern lakes have been strongly impacted by recent climate warming.

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