Recent changes in the diatom community structure of lakes in the Beartooth Mountain Range, U.S.A.

Jasmine E. Saros, Sebastian J. Interlandi, Alexander P. Wolfe, Daniel R. Engstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


In alpine lakes from several regions of the world, sedimentary diatom profiles indicate that rapid shifts in diatom community structure have occurred over the past century. A number of these recent shifts have been attributed to anthropogenic disturbances such as enhanced atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition or climate change. When these disturbances are coupled, the response of alpine lakes becomes more complex and varies from region to region. The Beartooth Mountain Range, situated on the border between Montana and Wyoming, is part of the central Rocky Mountains; it is considered an area of relatively low N deposition but has experienced an increase in bulk precipitation rates, primarily in the form of snowfall, over the past century. We have examined a 400-yr sediment record from Beartooth Lake and have observed a rapid change in the diatom community structure over the past decade. A typical alpine lake diatom flora, consisting mainly of small Fragilaria sensu lato species, dominated this lake until approximately 1995, at which time Fragilaria crotonensis and Cyclotella bodanica var. lemanica rapidly increased to approximately 30% each of the total assemblage. The diatom assemblages from the tops and bottoms of short cores from three additional lakes in the area also reveal taxonomic shifts. These shifts appear indicative of both increased N loading to these systems as well as changes in thermal stratification patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-23
Number of pages6
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes


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