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The ostracode record from Harris Lake, southwestern Saskatchewan: 9200 years of local environmental change

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Journal of paleolimnology





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Holocene paleoenvironments of Harris Lake, southwestern Saskatchewan, are reconstructed from the ostracode stratigraphy of a 10.4 m sediment core. Twenty three taxa, representing nine genera, were identified and counted from 113 samples. At each depth, a theoretical faunal assemblage was derived from the raw counts. The mean and variance of chemical, climatic and physical variables were inferred from modern analogues of the fossil assemblages, using existing autecological data from 6720 sites, mostly in western Canada. These data suggest four paleoenvironments: an early-Holocene (9240–6400 years BP) variable climate supporting aspen parkland vegetation; the warm dry hypsithermal (6400–4500 years BP); a short transitional period of ameliorating climate and expanding subboreal forest (4500–3600 years BP); and the present environment since 3600 years BP. A change in regional climate with the draining of Glacial Lake Agassiz (ca. 8500 years BP) and landsliding in the watershed (ca. 4000 years BP) caused relatively rapid environmental change. The ostracode record generally corroborates the interpretations of other proxy data previously published for Harris Lake. Most of the discrepancy involves the timing and severity of maximum Holocene warmth and aridity. Peak aridity interpreted from the pollen data is earlier than in the other proxy records. Both the diatoms and ostracodes indicate highest paleosalinity between ca. 6500 and 5000 years BP, but maximum salinity in the diatom record occurs between ca. 6000–5700 years BP, whereas the ostracode-inferred salinity is relatively low at this time and peaks later at ca. 5000 years. Neither of these reconstructions suggests the short episodes of hypersalinity interpreted from the mineralogy.