Holocene geo-ecological evolution of Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park (USA)

C.M. Schiller, Cathy Whitlock, S.R. Brown

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Changes in climate and fire regime have long been recognized as drivers of the postglacial vegetation history of Yellowstone National Park, but the effects of locally dramatic hydrothermal activity are poorly known. Multi-proxy records from Goose Lake have been used to describe the history of Lower Geyser Basin where modern hydrothermal activity is widespread. From 10,300 cal yr BP to 3800 cal yr BP, thermal waters discharged into the lake, as evidenced by the deposition of arsenic-rich sediment, fluorite mud, and relatively high D13Csediment values. Partially thermal conditions affected the limnobiotic composition, but prevailing climate, fire regime, and rhyolitic substrate maintained Pinus contorta forest in the basin, as found throughout the region. At 3800 cal yr BP, thermal water discharge into Goose Lake ceased, as evidenced by a shift in sediment geochemistry and limnobiota. Pollen and charcoal data indicate concurrent grassland development with limited fuel biomass and less fire activity, despite late Holocene climate conditions that were conducive to expanded forest cover. The shift in hydrothermal activity at Goose Lake and establishment of the treeless geyser basin may have been the result of a tectonic event or change in hydroclimate. This record illustrates the complex interactions of geology and climate that govern the development of an active hydrothermal geo-ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2021.


  • Charcoal
  • Diatoms
  • Fire history
  • Hydrothermal activity
  • Lodgepole pine
  • Pollen
  • Vegetation history

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • YNP4


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