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Vegetation and climate change on the Bolivian Altiplano between 108,000 and 18,000 yr ago

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Alex Chepstow-Lusty*
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 West University BoulevardMelbourne, FL 32901, USA Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, Université Montpellier II, (UMR CNRS 5554), Paléoenvironnements, Montpellier Cedex 05, France
Mark B. Bush
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 West University BoulevardMelbourne, FL 32901, USA
Michael R. Frogley
Department of Geography, Centre for Environmental Research, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QJ, UK
Paul A. Baker
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0227, USA Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0227, USA
Sherilyn C. Fritz
Department of Geosciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588-0340, USA School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588-0340, USA
James Aronson
CEFE/CNRS (U.P.R. 9056), 34293 Montpellier Cedex 05, France
*Corresponding author. Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, Université Montpellier II, (UMR CNRS 5554), Paléoenvironnements, Case 61, Pl. E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 05, France. E-mail (A. Chepstow-Lusty).


A 90,000-yr record of environmental change before 18,000 cal yr B.P. has been constructed using pollen analyses from a sediment core obtained from Salar de Uyuni (3653 m above sea level) on the Bolivian Altiplano. The sequence consists of alternating mud and salt, which reflect shifts between wet and dry periods. Low abundances of aquatic species between 108,000 and 50,000 yr ago (such as Myriophyllum and Isoëtes) and marked fluctuations in Pediastrum suggest generally dry conditions dominated by saltpans. Between 50,000 yr ago and 36,000 cal yr B.P., lacustrine sediments become increasingly dominant. The transition to the formation of paleolake “Minchin” begins with marked rises in Isoëtes and Myriophyllum, suggesting a lake of moderate depth. Similarly, between 36,000 and 26,000 cal yr B.P., the transition to paleolake Tauca is also initiated by rises in Isoëtes and Myriophyllum; the sustained presence of Isoëtes indicates the development of flooded littoral communities associated with a lake maintained at a higher water level. Polylepis tarapacana-dominated communities were probably an important component of the Altiplano terrestrial vegetation during much of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and previous wet phases.

Research Article
University of Washington

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