Biogeochemical evidence for hydrologic changes during the Holocene in a lake sediment record from southeast Greenland

Nicholas L. Balascio, William J. D'Andrea, Raymond S. Bradley, Bianca B. Perren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Holocene paleoclimate records from Greenland help us understand the response of the Greenland Ice Sheet and regional oceanic and atmospheric circulation systems to natural climate variability in order to place recent changes in a longer-term perspective. Here biogeochemical analysis of a lake sediment core from southeast Greenland is used to define changes in moisture balance and runoff during the Holocene in a catchment near the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. A 1.6 m sediment core that spans the last 8.8 ka was recovered from Flower Valley Lake on Ammassalik Island. Magnetic susceptibility, diatoms, bulk biogeochemical properties (TOC, C/N, δ13Corg), and lipid biomarkers (n-alkanes; C16-C31) reveal changes in clastic sedimentation and the relative input of terrestrial- and aquatic-derived organic matter. Hydrogen isotope values (δD) of mid- (n-C25) and long-chain (n-C29, n-C31) n-alkanes allow reconstruction of δD of precipitation and summertime evaporation of lake water. Following a period of early lake ontogeny and landscape stabilization after deglaciation from 8.4 to 7.0 ka, the mid Holocene, 8.4-4.1 ka, is characterized by greater evaporative enrichment of the lake water as indicated by δD records. After 4.1 ka, there is a decrease in evaporative enrichment of the lake water. There is also an abrupt transition to more variable sedimentation marked by sharp increases in magnetic susceptibility, C/N, δ13Corg, and the concentration of long-chain n-alkanes, showing periodic delivery of terrestrial organic matter and clastic sediment to the lake. Higher insolation during the mid Holocene resulted in a warmer and drier climate with longer ice-free periods in the summer and enhanced evaporation of lake water. The reduction in insolation and colder temperatures during the late Holocene caused a reduction in evaporation of lake water over the last 4.1 ka and was accompanied by periodic increases in surface runoff, which correspond with intervals of cold Greenland Ice Sheet surface temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1428-1439
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by National Science Foundation grant ARC-0909354 and NOAA grant NA10OAR4310228. D’Andrea’s participation was supported by ARC-0851642 to WJD.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • biogeochemistry
  • diatoms
  • Greenland
  • Holocene
  • lake sediment
  • paleoclimate


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