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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Global and Planetary Change




Elsevier BV

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Mountain lakes, paleolimnology, climate change, atmospheric deposition, dust, carbon cycle, species invasions

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Mountain lakes are often situated in protected natural areas, a feature that leads to their role as sentinels of global environmental change. Despite variations in latitude, mountain lakes share many features, including their location in catchments with steep topographic gradients, cold temperatures, high incident solar and ultraviolet radiation (UVR), and prolonged ice and snow cover. These characteristics, in turn, affect mountain lake ecosystem structure, diversity, and productivity. The lakes themselves are mostly small, and up until recently, have been characterized as oligotrophic. This paper provides a review and update of the growing body of research that shows that sediments in remote mountain lakes archive regional and global environmental changes, including those linked to climate change, altered biogeochemical cycles, and changes in dust composition and deposition, atmospheric fertilization, and biological manipulations. These archives provide an important record of global environmental change that pre-dates typical monitoring windows. Paleolimnological research at strategically selected lakes has increased our knowledge of interactions among multiple stressors and their synergistic effects on lake systems. Lakes from transectsacross steep climate (i.e., temperature and effective moisture) gradients in mountain regions show how environmental change alters lakes in close proximity, but at differing climate starting points. Such research in particular highlights the impacts of melting glaciers on mountain lakes. The addition of new proxies, including DNA-based techniques and advanced stable isotopic analyses, provides a gateway to addressing novel research questions about global environmental change. Recent advances in remote sensing and continuous, high-frequency, limnological measurements will improve spatial and temporal resolution and help to add records to spatial gaps including tropical and southern latitudes. Mountain lake records provide a unique opportunity for global scale assessments that provide knowledge necessary to protect the Earth system.

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