Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Quaternary International 67:1 (May 2000), pp. 37–46; doi:10.1016/S1040-6182(00)00007-0 Copyright © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. and INQUA. Used by permission.


The fossil diatom record from Elk Lake (Grant County, Minnesota) was used to reconstruct salinity and brine type between 2640 and 4645 14C yr BP. This lake was selected for a brine-type reconstruction because a previous study using fossil-ostracode assemblages indicated a shift in anion composition during the mid-Holocene (Smith et al., 1997). Salinity was reconstructed using a transfer function developed for the Northern Great Plains (NGP) of North America; the reconstruction revealed that salinity was higher (1.5–6.2 g l−1) between ~4000 and 4645 14C yr BP and dropped to 0.35–1.2 g l−1 after 4000 14C yr BP. The anion composition of the system was investigated by passively plotting fossil diatom assemblages onto a canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) biplot of the NGP modern samples to determine where core assemblages fell with respect to brine type. The biplot suggests that Elk Lake was mainly a bicarbonate system, but temporarily shifted to sulfate domination at 4080 14C yr BP. Both the salinity and brine-type reconstructions essentially agree with results from Smith et al. (1997), but the diatom record provides less-definitive information on anion proportions as compared to anion concentrations. Because shifts in the relative abundances of anion-associated diatom taxa generally tracked the ostracode-inferred changes in brine type, we conclude that fossil diatom assemblages can reveal information on shifts in brine type over time and provide insight into brine evolution and groundwater behavior in a lake system.