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Interpretation of Holocene lake-level change from diatom assemblages in Lake Sidi Ali, Middle Atlas, Morocco


While palaeohydrological changes in non-outlet lakes provide a key proxy indicator of past climatic fluctuations, for lake systems which have been chemically insensitive, it is necessary to use indicators of water depth rather than salinity to reconstruct their hydro- climatic histories. A study of diatoms in the modern sediments of Sidi Ali, a non-outlet lake in the Middle Atlas of Morocco, has shown a statistically significant correlation between water depth and the ratio of planktonic to littoral diatoms. This relationship is used to calibrate fossil diatom assemblages from a lake sediment core from the same lake to provide a quantitative index of water levels over the pastc. 6500 years. Palaeoecological evidence suggests that climatically induced hydrological variations have dominated the bulk of the mid-late Holocene lake sediment record, with significant human-induced catchment disturbance only occurring during the twentieth century. The pattern of water depth fluctuations suggests that the response time of the regional groundwater system to climatic forcing is <100 years.

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This is the third in a series of papers published in this issue on the paleolimnology of arid regions. These papers were presented at the Sixth International Palaeolimnology Symposium held 19–21 April, 1993 at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Dr A. R. Chivas served as guest editor for these papers.

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Barker, P.A., Roberts, N., Lamb, H.F. et al. Interpretation of Holocene lake-level change from diatom assemblages in Lake Sidi Ali, Middle Atlas, Morocco. J Paleolimnol 12, 223–234 (1994).

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Key words

  • diatoms
  • lake-level
  • Middle Atlas
  • Morocco
  • Holocene
  • palaeohydrology