Multiproxy paleolimnological records provide evidence for a shift to a new ecosystem state in the Northern Great Plains, USA

Kui Hu, David M. Mushet, Jon N. Sweetman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the North American Northern Great Plains perform multiple ecosystem services and are biodiversity hotspots. However, climatological changes can result in sudden shifts in these important ecosystems. For example, marked increases in precipitation in the last few decades have resulted in a widespread shift in wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region to a new ecohydrological state. We used multiproxy analyses (diatom community composition and invertebrate stable isotopes) of 210Pb-dated sediment cores from two adjacent, but morphologically and hydrologically different, prairie-pothole wetlands to assess the effects of hydroclimatic variability on these wetland ecosystems. Our results provide evidence that the recent ecohydrological shift in the region's wetlands is unprecedented over the past ca. 178 yr. Oxygen stable isotopes in chironomid head capsules provide a record of paleohydrology changes. The most recent sediments (i.e., those deposited after the state shift) from both wetlands revealed novel changes in diatom communities that differed greatly from earlier community compositions. In addition, a depleted signal in deuterium and 13C carbon stable isotopes observed in chironomid head capsules and Daphnia ephippia, respectively, after 1993 is likely related to an increase in methane production in these wetlands. Our study highlights the importance of considering basin morphometry including whether a wetland has an overflow point, and multiple biological indicators to study climate-change influences on freshwater ecosystems. Research using these techniques can lead to an improved understanding of recent ecosystem shifts, an understanding that will be essential for future climate-change adaptation and mitigation in this ecologically important region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S54-S70
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science

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