Late Quaternary Changes in Lakes, Vegetation, and Climate in the Bonneville Basin Reconstructed from Sediment Cores from Great Salt Lake

R. S. Thompson, C. G. Oviatt, J. S. Honke, J. P. McGeehin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

28 Scopus citations


Sediment cores from Great Salt Lake (GSL) provide the basis for reconstructing changes in lakes, vegetation, and climate for the last ~ 40 cal ka. Initially, the coring site was covered by a shallow saline lake and surrounded by Artemisia steppe or steppe-tundra under a cold and dry climate. As Lake Bonneville began to rise (from ~ 30 to 28 cal ka), Pinus and subalpine conifer pollen percentages increased and Artemisia declined, suggesting the onset of wetter conditions. Lake Bonneville oscillated near the Stansbury shoreline between ~ 26 and ~ 24 cal ka, rose to the Bonneville shoreline by ~ 18 cal ka, and then fell to the Provo shoreline, which it occupied until ~ 15 cal ka. Vegetation changed during this time span, albeit not always with the same direction or amplitude as the lake. The pollen percentages of Pinus and subalpine conifers were high from ~ 25 to 21.5 cal ka, indicating cool and moist conditions during the Stansbury oscillation and for much of the rise toward the Bonneville shoreline. Pinus percentages then decreased and Artemisia became codominant, suggesting drier and perhaps colder conditions from ~ 21 to ~ 15 cal ka, when Lake Bonneville was at or near its highest levels. Lake Bonneville declined to a low level by ~ 13 cal ka, while Pinus pollen percentages increased, indicating that conditions remained cooler and moister than today. During the Younger Dryas interval, the brief Gilbert episode rise in lake level was followed by a shallow lake with a stratified water column. This lake rise occurred as Pinus pollen percentages were declining and those of Artemisia were rising (reflecting increasingly dry conditions), after which Artemisia pollen was at very high levels (suggesting cold and dry conditions) for a brief period. Since ~ 10.6 cal ka lacustrine conditions have resembled those of present-day GSL. Pollen spectra for the period from ~ 10.6 to 7.2 cal ka have low levels of conifer pollen and high (for the Holocene) levels of desert and steppe taxa, suggesting generally dry conditions with maximum aridity occurring prior to the deposition of the Mazama tephra (~ 7.6 cal ka). After ~ 10.6 cal ka, Juniperus pollen percentages began to increase and by ~ 7.2 cal ka juniper woodlands were well established on lower mountain slopes. From ~ 7 to 4 cal ka, pollen percentages fluctuated near their mean values for the entire Holocene. The neopluvial (~ 4 to 2 cal ka) was the wettest part of the Holocene, with higher levels of Juniperus pollen and lower levels for steppe and desert taxa than in older Holocene sediments. Pollen percentages for the last ~ 2 cal ka are variable, but generally indicate a return to drier conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLake Bonneville
Subtitle of host publicationA Scientific Update, 2016
EditorsCharles G. Oviatt, John F. Shroder
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages71
ISBN (Print)9780444635907
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Earth Surface Processes
ISSN (Print)0928-2025

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Great Basin
  • Great Salt Lake
  • Lake Bonneville
  • Paleoclimate
  • Palynology
  • Sedimentology


Dive into the research topics of 'Late Quaternary Changes in Lakes, Vegetation, and Climate in the Bonneville Basin Reconstructed from Sediment Cores from Great Salt Lake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this