A 22,000 14C year BP sediment and pollen record of climate change from Laguna Miscanti (23°S), northern Chile

Grosjean, Martin; van Leeuwen, Jacqueline; van der Knaap, Willem Oscar; Geyh, M.A; Ammann, Brigitta; Tanner, Willi; Messerli, Bruno; Núñez, L.A.; Valero-Garcés, B.L.; Veit, Heinz (2001). A 22,000 14C year BP sediment and pollen record of climate change from Laguna Miscanti (23°S), northern Chile. Global and planetary change, 28(1-4), pp. 35-51. Elsevier Science 10.1016/S0921-8181(00)00063-1

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Lake sediments and pollen, spores and algae from the high-elevation endorheic Laguna Miscanti (22°45′S, 67°45′W, 4140 m a.s.l., 13.5 km2 water surface, 10 m deep) in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile provide information about abrupt and high amplitude changes in effective moisture. Although the lack of terrestrial organic macrofossils and the presence of a significant 14C reservoir effect make radiocarbon dating of lake sediments very difficult, we propose the following palaeoenvironmental history. An initial shallow freshwater lake (ca. 22,000 14C years BP) disappeared during the extremely dry conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; 18,000 14C years BP). That section is devoid of pollen. The late-glacial lake transgression started around 12,000 14C years BP, peaked in two phases between ca. 11,000 and <9000 14C years BP, and terminated around 8000 14C years BP. Effective moisture increased more than three times compared to modern conditions (∼200 mm precipitation), and a relatively dense terrestrial vegetation was established. Very shallow hypersaline lacustrine conditions prevailed during the mid-Holocene until ca. 3600 14C years BP. However, numerous drying and wetting cycles suggest frequent changes in moisture, maybe even individual storms during the mid-Holocene. After several humid spells, modern conditions were reached at ca. 3000 14C years BP. Comparison between limnogeological data and pollen of terrestrial plants suggest century-scale response lags. Relatively constant concentrations of long-distance transported pollen from lowlands east of the Andes suggest similar atmospheric circulation patterns (mainly tropical summer rainfall) throughout the entire period of time. These findings compare favorably with other regional paleoenvironmental data.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Grosjean, Martin, van Leeuwen, Jacqueline Francisca, van der Knaap, Pim, Ammann, Brigitta, Tanner, Willi, Messerli, Bruno, Veit, Heinz


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Elsevier Science




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

12 Feb 2016 14:24

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:27

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Holocene, Pleistocene, lake sediments, pollen, radiocarbon reservoir effect, Andes





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