Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, 2nd ed. (Scott A. Elias and Cary J. Mock, editors), pp. 507–515.


Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


Diatoms are widely used to reconstruct past environments because of their sensitivity to a range of environmental variables. Among the variables that exert a strong influence on diatoms are ionic concentration, expressed as salinity or conductivity, and ionic composition. Because the ionic concentration and composition of inland water bodies is affected by changes in effective moisture (precipitation minus evaporation, P – E), changes in the abundance of diatom species that vary in their salinity tolerances provide a tool for the reconstruction of past climate.