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Limnological and paleolimnological studies in the Canadian Arctic

New proxy-climate indicators are being developed to better understand past climate changes in the Canadian arctic.

Varved sediments, Devon Island

The scale is in cm.

This photo illustrates some laminated sediments (called varves) from Lake DV09 on northwest Devon Island, Nunavut. In this particular lake, there is a dark and a light layer laid down every year. Thus, we can precisely date the sediment by counting the layers. Variations in the thickness of these layers seem to be related to the climate. Therefore, this series of varve thickness can be used as a proxy record of the climate. In addition, there was a major increase in the abundance of diatoms in the sediments during this century. Using these series, we can reconstruct changes in the climate at this site for periods of time before instrumental records began. Our results have shown that major climate changes occurred during this century in this region of the arctic, suggesting global warming is impacting this site in the Canadian Arctic enough to be affecting the aquatic ecosystems.

See Gajewski, K., P. Hamilton and R. McNeely. 1997. A high-resolution proxy-climate record from an arctic lake with annually-laminated sediments on Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada. Journal of paleolimnology 17:215-225. More recently, we extended this record through the Holocene (Courtney-Mustaphi, C and K Gajewski. 2013. Holocene sediments from a coastal lake on northern Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 50: 564-575. 10.1139/cjes-2012-0143) and collaborated on a more extensive analysis of these sediments (Outridge, PM, H Sanei, C Courtney Mustaphi and K Gajewski. 2017. Holocene climate change influences on trace metal and organic matter geochemistry over 7000 years in a varved Arctic lake sediment profile. Applied Geochemistry 78: 35-48)

Sediment characteristics ae limited in what they can tell you about past environments. Microfossils extracted from the sediments can provide considerable information about past climates and environments. Throughout these pages, you can find information about our studies of diatoms, chironomids, ostracods, cladocera, and pollen from across northern Canada.




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