Skip to main content

Deglaciation and Holocene climate change in the western Peruvian Andes

  • Chengyu Weng (a1), Mark B. Bush (a1), Jason H. Curtis (a2), Alan L. Kolata (a3), Tom D. Dillehay (a4) and Michael W. Binford (a5)...

Pollen, charcoal, magnetic susceptibility, and bulk density data provide the first paleoecological record spanning the last 33,000 years from the western cordillera of the Peruvian Andes. Sparse super-puna vegetation existed before 30,000 cal yr B.P. around Lake Compuerta (3950 m elevation), prior to a sedimentary hiatus that lasted until c. 16,200 cal yr B.P. When sedimentation resumed, a glacial foreland or super-puna flora is represented in which Polylepis was a significant element. Glacial outwash, marked by high sedimentary magnetic susceptibility, increased from c.16,200 cal yr B.P. and reached a peak at c. 13,200 cal yr B.P. Between c. 12,500 cal yr B.P. and 10,000 cal yr B.P., magnetic susceptibility was reduced. Vegetation shifts suggest a cool dry time, consistent with regional descriptions of the Younger Dryas event. Deglaciation resumes by 10,000 cal yr B.P. and the last ice is lost from the catchment at ∼7500 cal yr B.P. During the early Holocene warm and dry period between 10,000 and 5500 cal yr B.P., Alnus expanded in downslope forests. Alnus declined in abundance at 5500 cal yr B.P. when wetter and cooler conditions returned and human activity intensified. Maize (Zea mays) pollen first occurred in the core at ∼2600 cal yr B.P., indicating a minimum age for local agriculture. An increase in Alnus pollen abundance at ∼1000 cal yr B.P. could be due to human activity or perhaps due to a regional climate change associated with cultural turnover elsewhere in the Andes at this time.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author. E-mail address: (C. Weng), (M.B. Bush).
Hide All
1 Current address: Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 318, 1098 SM Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
2 Current address: Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37325, USA.
Hide All
Abbott M.B., Seltzer G.O., Kelts K.R., and Southon J. Holocene paleohydrology of the tropical Andes from lake records. Quaternary Research 47, (1997). 7080.
Abbott M.B., Wolfe B.B., Aravena R., Wolfe A.P., and Seltzer G.O. Holocene hydrological reconstructions from stable isotopes and paleolimnology, Cordillera Real, Bolivia. Quaternary Science Reviews 19, (2000). 18011820.
Abbott M.B., Wolfe B.B., Wolfe A.P., Seltzer G.O., Aravena R., Mark B.G., Polissar P.J., Rodbell D.T., Rowe H.D., and Vuille M. Holocene paleohydrology and glacial history of the central Andes using multiproxy lake sediment studies. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194, (2003). 123138.
Baker P.A., Rigsby C.A., Seltzer G.O., Fritz S.C., Lowenstein T.K., Bacher N.P., and Veliz C. Tropical climate changes at millennial and orbital timescales on the Bolivian Altiplano. Nature 409, (2001). 698701.
Baker P.A., Seltzer G.O., Fritz S.C., Dunbar R.B., Grove M.J., Tapia P.M., Cross S.L., Rowe H.D., and Broda J.P. The History of South American Tropical Precipitation for the Past 25,000 Years. Science 291, (2001). 640643.
Bard E. Geochemical and geophysical implications of the radiocarbon calibration. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 62, (1998). 20252038.
Betancourt J.L., Latorre C., Rech J.A., Quade J., and Rylander K.A. A 22,000-year record of monsoonal precipitation from Northern Chile's Atacama desert. Science 289, (2000). 15421546.
Binford M.W., Kolata A.L., Brenner M., Janusek J., Seddon M.T., Abbott M.B., and Curtis J.H. Climate variation and the rise and fall of an Andean civilization. Quaternary Research 47, (1997). 235248.
Bonavia D. Peru: Hombre y Historia. (1991). Ediciones Edubanco, Lima.
Bush M.B. Deriving response matrices from central America modern pollen rain. Quarternary Research 54, (2000). 132143.
Bush M.B., Hansen B.C.S., Rodbell D., Seltzer G.O., Young K.R., León B., Silman M.R., Abbott M.B., and Gosling W.D. A 17,000 year history of Andean climatic and vegetation change from Laguna de Chochos, Peru. Journal of Quaternary Science 20, (2005). 703714.
Chepstow-Lusty A.J., and Winfield M. Inca agroforestry: lessons from the past. Ambio 29, (2000). 322328.
Chepstow-Lusty A.J., Bennett K.D., Fjeldsa J., Kendall A., Galiano W., and Herrera A.T. Tracing 4000 years of environmental history in the Cuzco area, Peru, from the pollen record. Mountain Research and Development 18, (1998). 159172.
Chepstow-Lusty A.J., Frogley M.R., Bauer B.S., Bush M.B., and Herreras A.T. A Late Holocene record of arid events from the Cuzco region, Peru. Journal of Quaternary Science 18, (2003). 491502.
Clapperton C.W. Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology of South America. (1993). Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Colinvaux P.A., Olson K., and Liu K.-b. Late-Glacial and Holocene pollen diagrams from two endorheic lakes of the inter-Andean plateau of Ecuador. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 55, (1988). 8399.
Colinvaux P.A., Bush M.B., Steinitz-Kannan M., and Miller M.C. Glacial and postglacial pollen records from the Ecuadorian Andes and Amazon. Quaternary Research 48, (1997). 6978.
Colinvaux P.A., De Oliveira P.E., and Moreno J.E. Amazon Pollen Manual and Atlas. (1999). Harwood Academic Press, New York.
Davis S.D., Heywood V.H., Hamilton A.C., (1997). Centers of plant diversity: a guide and strategy for their conservation. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and IUCN-The World Conservation Union, .
Dillehay T.D. The Settlement of the Americas: A New Prehistory. (2000). Basic Books, New York.
Dillehay T.D. Climate and human migrations. Science 298, (2002). 764765.
Ellenberg H. Man's influence on tropical mountain ecosystems in South America. Journal of Ecology 67, (1979). 401416.
Faegri K., and Iversen J. Textbook of Pollen Analysis. (1989). Wiley, Chichester.
Fisher M.M., Brenner M., and Reddy K.R. A simple, inexpensive piston corer for collecting undisturbed sediment/water interface profiles. Journal of Paleolimnology 7, (1992). 157161.
Fornari M., Risacher F., and Feraud G. Dating of paleolakes in the central Altiplano of Bolivia. Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 172, (2001). 269282.
Grimm E., (1992). TILIA Software, Version 1.12. Illinois State University, .
Hansen B.C.S., and Rodbell D.T. A late-glacial/Holocene pollen record from the eastern Andes of Northern Peru. Quaternary Research 44, (1995). 216227.
Hansen B.C.S., Wright H.E.J., and Bradbury J.P. Pollen studies in the Junín area, Central Peruvian Andes. Geological Society of America Bulletin 95, (1984). 14541465.
Hansen B.C.S., Seltzer G.O., and Wright H.E.J. Late Quaternary vegetation change in the central Peruvian Andes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 109, (1994). 263285.
Hansen B.C.S., Rodbell D.T., Seltzer G.O., Leon B., Young K.R., and Abbott M. Late-glacial and Holocene vegetational history from two sites in the western Cordillera of southwestern Ecuador. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194, (2003). 79108.
Heusser C.J. Pollen and Spores of Chile. Modern types of the Pteridophyta, Gymnospermae and Angiospermae. (1971). University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ.
Hooghiemstra H. Vegetational and Climatic History of the High Plain of Bogota, Colombia: A Continuous Record of the last 3.5 million Years. (1984). Gantner Verlag, Vaduz.
Kessler M. The genus Polylepis (Rosaceae) in Bolivia. Candollea 50, (1995). 131171.
Kessler M. The “Polylepis problem”: where do we stand?. Ecotropica 8, (2002). 97110.
Klein A.G., Seltzer G.O., and Isacks B.L. Modern and local glacial maximum snowlines in the central Andes of Peru, Bolivia and Northern Chile. Quaternary Science Reviews 17, (1998). 121.
Kolata A.L. Environmental thresholds and the ‘Natural History’ of an Andean civilization. Bawden G., and Reycraft R. Environmental Disaster and the Archeology of Human Response. (2000). University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 163178.
Lavallee D. The First South Americans. (2000). University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Markgraf V., and D'Antoni H.L. Pollen and Spores of Argentina. (1978). University of Arizona, Tucson.
Núñez L., Grosjean M., and Cartajena I. Human occupations and climate change in the Puna de Atacama, Chile. Science 298, (2002). 821824.
Paduano G.M., Bush M.B., Baker P.A., Fritz S.L., and Seltzer G.O. The Late Quaternary vegetation history of Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia. Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology 194, (2003). 259279.
Placzek C., Quade J., and Betancourt J.L. Holocene lake-level fluctuations of Lake Aricota, southern Peru. Quaternary Research 56, (2001). 181190.
Ramirez E., Hoffmann G., Taupin J.D., Francou B., Ribstein P., Caillon N., Ferron F.A., Landais A., Petit J.R., Pouyaud B., Schotterer U., Simoes J.C., and Stievenard M. A new Andean deep ice core from Nevado Illimani (6350 m), Bolivia. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 212, (2003). 337350.
Roubik D.W., and Moreno E. Pollen and Spores of Barro Colorado Island. Monographs in Systematic Botany vol. 36, (1991). Missouri Botanical Garden,
Seltzer G.O., Rodbell D.T., and Burns S. Isotopic evidence for late Quaternary climatic change in tropical South America. Geology 28, (2000). 3538.
Seltzer G.O., Rodbell D.T., Baker P.A., Fritz S.C., Tapia P.M., Rowe H.D., and Dunbar R.B. Early deglaciation in the tropical Andes. Science 298, (2002). 16851686.
Smith J.A., Seltzer G.O., Farber D.L., Rodbell D.T., and Finkel R.C. Early local last Glacial maximum in the tropical Andes. Science 308, (2005). 678681.
Stockmarr J. Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen Spores 13, (1971). 615621.
Stuiver M., and Reimer P.J. Extended 14C database and revised CALIB radiocarbon calibration program. Radiocarbon 35, (1993). 215230.
Tapia P.M., Fritz S.C., Baker P.A., Seltzer G.O., and Dunbar R.B. A Late Quaternary diatom record of tropical climatic history from Lake Titicaca (Peru and Bolivia). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194, (2003). 139164.
Thompson L.G., Mosley-Thompson E., Davis M.E., Lin P.-N., Henderson K.A., Cole-Dai J., Bolsan J.F., and Liu K.B. Late glacial stage and Holocene tropical ice core records from Huascaran, Peru. Science 269, (1995). 4650.
Thompson L.G., Mosley-Thompson E., and Henderson K.A. Ice-core palaeoclimate records in tropical South America since the Last Glacial Maximum. Journal of Quaternary Science 15, (2000). 377394.
Weng C., Bush M.B., and Silman M.R. An analysis of modern pollen rain on an elevational gradient in southern Peru. Journal of Tropical Ecology 20, (2004). 113124.
Weng C., Bush M.B., and Chepstow-Lusty A.J. Holocene changes of Andean alder (Alnus acuminata) in highland Ecuador and Peru. Journal of Quaternary Science 19, (2004). 685691.
Ybert J.P. Ancient lake environments as deduced from pollen analysis. DeJoux C., and Iltis A. Lake Titicaca: A Synthesis of Limnological Knowledge. (1992). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston. 4962.
Young K.R., and Leon B. Distribution and conservation of Peru's Montane forests: interactions between the biota and human society. Hamilton L.S., Juvik J.O., and Scatena F.N. Tropical Montane Cloud Forests. (1995). Springer-Verlag, Amsterdam. 363376.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 1 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 31 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 23rd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.