Lake-level variability in Salar de Coipasa, Bolivia during the past ∼40,000 yr

J. Andrew Nunnery, Sherilyn C. Fritz, Paul A. Baker, Wout Salenbien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Various paleoclimatic records have been used to reconstruct the hydrologic history of the Altiplano, relating this history to past variability of the South American summer monsoon. Prior studies of the southern Altiplano, the location of the world's largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni, and its neighbor, the Salar de Coipasa, generally agree in their reconstructions of the climate history of the past ∼24 ka. Some studies, however, have highly divergent climatic records and interpretations of earlier periods. In this study, lake-level variation was reconstructed from a ∼14-m-long sediment core from the Salar de Coipasa. These sediments span the last ∼40 ka. Lacustrine sediment accumulation was apparently continuous in the basin from ∼40 to 6 ka, with dry or very shallow conditions afterward. The fossil diatom stratigraphy and geochemical data (δ13C, δ15N, %Ca, C/N) indicate fluctuations in lake level from shallow to moderately deep, with the deepest conditions correlative with the Heinrich-1 and Younger Dryas events. The stratigraphy shows a continuous lake of variable depth and salinity during the last glacial maximum and latter stages of Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 3 and is consistent with environmental inferences and the original chronology of a drill core from Salar de Uyuni.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-847
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Altiplano
  • Andes
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleohydrology
  • Paleolake
  • South America

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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