Isotopic tracers of paleohydrologic change in large lakes of the Bolivian Altiplano

Christa J. Placzek, Jay Quade, P. Jonathan Patchett

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44 Scopus citations


We have developed an 87Sr/86Sr, 234U/238U, and δ18O data set from carbonates associated with late Quaternary paleolake cycles on the southern Bolivian Altiplano as a tool for tracking and understanding the causes of lake-level fluctuations. Distinctive groupings of 87Sr/86Sr ratios are observed. Ratios are highest for the Ouki lake cycle (120-95ka) at 0.70932, lowest for Coipasa lake cycle (12.8-11.4ka) at 0.70853, and intermediate at 0.70881 to 0.70884 for the Salinas (95-80ka), Inca Huasi (~45ka), Sajsi (24-20.5ka), and Tauca (18.1-14.1ka) lake cycles. These Sr ratios reflect variable contributions from the eastern and western Cordilleras. The Laca hydrologic divide exerts a primary influence on modern and paleolake 87Sr/86Sr ratios; waters show higher 87Sr/86Sr ratios north of this divide. Most lake cycles were sustained by slightly more rainfall north of this divide but with minimal input from Lake Titicaca. The Coipasa lake cycle appears to have been sustained mainly by rainfall south of this divide. In contrast, the Ouki lake cycle was an expansive lake, deepest in the northern (Poópo) basin, and spilling southward. These results indicate that regional variability in central Andean wet events can be reconstructed using geochemical patterns from this lake system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-244
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Altiplano
  • Bolivia
  • Climate
  • ENSO
  • Lake
  • North Atlantic
  • Paleolakes
  • Strontium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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