The effects of alpine glaciers on the hydrology, physical features, and biogeochemistry of lakes have been investigated over contemporary time scales. However, the influence of these factors on algal communities over longer time scales remains unclear, yet is critical to paleolimnological interpretation of environmental change in alpine regions. We examined sedimentary algal pigments and fossil diatom assemblages in two proximal lakes with equivalent local climates, one glacier-fed and one snow-fed, in the central Rocky Mountains (USA) to determine how glacier meltwater has altered algal records over the last 3,000 years. Differences between the records of the two lakes intensified during the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age, with the glacier-fed lake exhibiting an overall increase in fossil algal pigment concentrations and greater diatom assemblage turnover. Starting 1,000 years ago, the glacier-fed lake in this study showed evidence of nitrogen enrichment from glacier meltwater, as indicated by increasing relative abundances of Asterionella formosa and, to a lesser extent, Fragilaria crotonensis. Since the Little Ice Age, diatom species richness declined in the glacier-fed lake, and further decreased following the 1950s, while assemblage turnover increased. These results demonstrate that glaciers can strongly alter the algal sedimentary record and should be considered when interpreting high-elevation lake records.
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- Diatom fossil record
- Glacier meltwater
- Oligotrophic lakes
- Paleolimnological interpretation