Late Pleistocene: Holocene record of environmental changes in Lake Zirahuen, Central Mexico

Beatriz Ortega, Gabriel Vázquez, Margarita Caballero, Isabel Israde, Socorro Lozano-García, Peter Schaaf, Esperanza Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Geochemical data obtained from X-ray fluorescence, physical properties, total organic and inorganic carbon content (TOC/TIC), and diatom analysis from a 6.61-m-long sedimentary sequence near the modern northern shore of Lake Zirahuen (101° 44′ W, 19° 26′ N, 2000 m asl) provide a reconstruction of lacustrine sedimentation during the last approximately 17 cal kyr BP. A time scale is based on ten AMS 14C dates and by tephra layers from Jorullo (AD 1759-1764) and Paricutin (AD 1943-1952) volcanoes. The multiproxy analyses presented in this study reveal abrupt changes in environmental and climatic conditions. The results are compared to the paleo-record from nearby Lake Patzcuaro. Dry conditions and low lake level are inferred in the late Pleistocene until ca. 15 cal kyr BP, followed by a slight but sustained increase in lake level, as well as a higher productivity, peaking at ca. 12.1 cal kyr BP. This interpretation is consistent with several regional climatic reconstructions in central Mexico, but it is in opposition to record from Lake Patzcuaro. A sediment hiatus bracketed between 12.1 and 7.2 cal kyr BP suggests a drop in lake level in response to a dry early Holocene. A deeper, more eutrophic and turbid lake is recorded after 7.2 cal kyr BP. Lake level at the coring site during the mid Holocene is considered the highest for the past 17 cal kyr BP. The emplacement of the La Magueyera lava flows (LMLF), dated by thermoluminiscence at 6560 ± 950 year, may have reduced basin volume and contributed to the relative deepening of the lake after 7.2 cal kyr BP. The late Holocene (after 3.9 cal kyr BP) climate is characterized by high instability. Extensive erosion, lower lake levels, dry conditions and pulses of high sediment influx due to high rainfall are inferred for this time. Further decrease in lake level and increased erosion are recorded after ca. AD 1050, at the peak of Purepechas occupation (AD 1300-1521), and until the eighteenth century. Few lacustrine records extend back to the late Pleistocene-early Holocene in central Mexico; this paper contributes to the understanding of late Pleistocene-Holocene paleoclimates in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-760
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The authors thank to S. Sosa, A. Rodriguez, T. Hernandez and L. Oseguera for coring assistance. T. Pi helped in DRX analyses. R. Peralta assisted in core initial descriptions. A. Ramirez carried out TL dating technical assistance. This work was founded by projects CONACYT 28528-T, and UNAM-DGAPA IN107902, IN114 906, IN113408, IN2126062 and by the Coordinación de Investigación Científica, UMSNH. Authors thank an anonymous reviewer whose comments and suggestions greatly improved the manuscript.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Climate change
  • Holocene
  • Lake sediments
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Zirahuen Mexico

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • MOLE


Dive into the research topics of 'Late Pleistocene: Holocene record of environmental changes in Lake Zirahuen, Central Mexico'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this