US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Quaternary Science Reviews 21 (2002) 1541–1554.


Ratios of the stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon in benthic ostracodes and marl from cores taken from two lakes in north-central Minnesota reflect Holocene hydrological and vegetation changes. Oxygen isotopes show that Williams and Shingobee Lakes, located in the same watershed but with different positions along a hydrologic gradient, were connected before 9.8 ka as part of a larger lake, Lake Willobee. From 9.8–7.7 ka, the level of Lake Willobee fell as a result of glacial retreat and increasing evaporation, leaving small separated basins. Further decreases in lake level after 7.7 ka due to increasing aridity triggered the inflow of ground water in Williams Lake at about 7 ka, and in Shingobee Lake at about 5 ka. After 4 ka effective moisture increased. The carbon-isotope record reflects changes in vegetation with higher δ13C values during the prairie period (7.7–4 ka) and lower values during preceding and succeeding forest periods. The differences in timing of hydrological events show that the biotic and geochemical response of the lakes to climate variations is mediated by their hydrologic systems. The response may be strongly spatially heterogeneous and can result in contrasting information from geochemical and biotic proxies from the same paleorecord.