Late Pleistocene and Holocene Hydroclimate Variability in the Tropical Andes from Alpine Lake Sediments, Cordillera de Mérida, Venezuela
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The tropics play a major role in the global hydrologic cycle and changes to tropical rainfall patterns have critical implications for water resources and ecosystem dynamics over large geographic scales. In tropical South America, late Pleistocene and Holocene precipitation variability has been documented in geologic records and associated with numerous external and internal variables, including changes in summer insolation, South American summer monsoon strength, Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures, continental moisture recycling, and other climate processes. However, there are few records from the northern hemisphere tropical Americas, a key region for understanding interhemispheric linkages and the drivers of tropical hydroclimate variability. Here, we present a ~13 ka record of coupled hydroclimate and environmental changes from Laguna Brava, a small (~0.07 km2), hydrologically closed lake basin situated at 2400 m asl in the Cordillera de Mérida, Venezuela. Sediment cores collected from varying water depths and proximity to shore are placed in a chronologic framework using radiocarbon ages from terrestrial macrofossils, and analyzed for a suite of physical, bulk geochemical, and stable isotopic parameters. Compound specific hydrogen isotope (D/H) measurements of terrestrial plant waxes (long-chain n-alkanes) show a sharp increase in the late Pleistocene, followed by a long-term trend toward more negative values that suggest a ~20‰ decrease in the D/H ratios of South American tropical precipitation during the Holocene. This pattern is consistent in sign and magnitude to other South American precipitation reconstructions from both hemispheres, indicating interhemispheric similarities in tropical hydroclimate variability. Superimposed on this continent-scale trend are changes in moisture balance and environmental conditions in the Venezuelan Andes. We reconstruct these parameters at Laguna Brava at multidecadal and centennial resolution and evaluate this record within the context of late Pleistocene and Holocene South American tropical hydroclimate variability and global climate changes.