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Late Quaternary Spatio-temporal Limnological Variations in the Altiplano of Bolivia and Peru1

  • Denis Wirrmann (a1) and Philippe Mourguiart (a2)


Between the western and eastern Andean cordilleras in Peru and Bolivia, there are three main lacustrine basins: Lake Titicaca, Lake Poopó, and the group of Coipasa-Uyuni. For the past few millennia, highly variable environmental conditions have been recorded in their sediments. Today a latitudinal meteorological gradient influences the lakes' status, leading to specific deposits and ostracod communities. Lake Titicaca in the north is oligohaline, whereas Lake Poopó further south is polyhaline. In the south, the Coipasa-Uyuni depression is characterized by a 12,000-km2 surficial salt crust. During the Late Pleistocene (ca. 40,000 to 25,000 yr B.P.), the water depth and salinity in paleolake Poopó fluctuated widely and paleolake Titicaca was slightly larger than at present. Sedimentation was mostly biocarbonate in the shallower areas and it was detrital-organic in the deepest zones. During the Holocene, a dry period transformed Lake Poopó into a "salar" with evaporite precipitation. Lake Titicaca registered a large decline in water level (8100-3600 yr B.P.) initially inducing gypsum precipitation followed by short influxes of water, with an ostracod faunal composition similar to that of the modern brines of Lake Poopó. Lake Titicacas' present condition only appeared between 2200 and 1500 yr B.P.



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This study was performed through an agreement between ORSTOM (Institut Français de Recherche Scientifique pour le Developement en Coopération) and UMSA (Universidad Mayor de san Anddrés, La Paz, Bolivia).



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