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Volume 28
Number 2
Summer 2011
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Graph showing air temperature and humidity readings at different park elevations for 2007 to 2009 Climate change in Great Basin National Park: Lake sediment and sensor-based studies
By Scott A. Reinemann, Nathan A. Patrick, Gretchen M. Baker, David F. Porinchu, Bryan G. Mark, and Jason E. Box
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Study methods
Discussion and conclusions
Acknowledgments and literature cited
About the authors
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Three researchers sample lake sediments from raft on lake

Bryan Mark, the Ohio State University

Researchers collect a sediment core at Stella Lake in August 2007.

With recognition that high-elevation environments are highly responsive to changes in temperature and precipitation, it is critical that we improve our understanding of how global climate change will affect freshwater resources and aquatic ecosystems in subalpine and alpine environments (Bradley et al. 2004; Parker et al. 2008). Further, the concern over changing water availability in the Intermountain West adds merit to alpine research. Improving our knowledge of the characteristics and behavior of aquatic ecosystems in alpine environments will strengthen our ability to develop meaningful adaptation strategies and scenarios describing the potential future response of these freshwater systems to projected climate change. Insight will also improve our ability to effectively manage these natural systems and the freshwater resources they contain (Adrian et al. 2009).

Lakes in Great Basin National Park are ideal for studying both past and future changes because of their protected status and relative lack of direct human influence. Paleolimnology is an excellent tool to study past changes by extracting information preserved in lake sediment records. In this way we can study the past distribution of aquatic fauna in high-elevation lakes and establish baseline conditions against which the effects of projected warming in these regions can be evaluated. In addition, paleolimnology can be used to assess how the biotic and abiotic components of aquatic ecosystems have responded to anthropogenic and natural stressors (Fenn et al. 2003; Parker et al. 2008).

Using remains of lake midges that are preserved in the lake sediments as a proxy for temperature, we have been able to describe variability in the park climate over almost 7,000 years.

We have initiated a collaborative research project to assess climate change in Great Basin National Park, Nevada, using paleolimnology and direct climate observations. Using remains of lake midges (insects in the order Diptera, family Chironomidae) that are preserved in the lake sediments as a proxy for temperature, we have been able to describe variability in the park climate over almost 7,000 years. We also have deployed a network of climate microloggers to complement the limnological work and better characterize current lake-specific climate conditions for comparison with today’s midge communities and the longer lake core records.

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This page updated:  8 November 2011

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From the Editor
Information Crossfile
Masthead Information
Special Issue: Climate Change Science in the National Parks
Climate change impacts and carbon in U.S. national parks
Glossary: Climate change–related terms
Pikas in Peril: Multiregional vulnerability assessment of a climate-sensitive sentinel species
Pika monitoring under way in four western parks: The development of a collaborative multipark protocol
Climate change science in Everglades National Park
Sea-level rise: Observations, impacts, and proactive measures in Everglades National Park
Landscape response to climate change and its role in infrastructure protection and management at Mount Rainier National Park
Glacier trends and response to climate in Denali National Park and Preserve
Climate change, management decisions, and the visitor experience: The role of social science research
Conserving pinnipeds in Pacific Ocean parks in response to climate change
The George Melendez Wright Climate Change Fellowship Program: Promoting innovative park science for resource management
Estimating and mitigating the impacts of climate change and air pollution on alpine plant communities in national parks
Parks use phenology to improve management and communicate climate change
Standards and tools for using phenology in science, management, and education
Hummingbird monitoring in Colorado Plateau parks
Paper birch: Sentinels of climate change in the Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska
  Climate change in Great Basin National Park: Lake sediment and sensor-based studies
Long-term change in perennial vegetation along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park (1889–2010)
The distribution and abundance of a nuisance native alga, Didymosphenia geminata, in streams of Glacier National Park
Monitoring direct and indirect climate effects on whitebark pine ecosystems at Crater Lake National Park
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