Environmental change in northern Belize since the latest Pleistocene

S. Metcalfe, A. Breen, M. Murray, A. Fallick, A. Mackenzie, Peter Furley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Cores from the New River Lagoon in Belize have been analysed using a range of palaeolimnological proxies to reconstruct change since the latest Pleistocene. The combination of diatom and stable isotope analyses (supported by mineralogical and major element data) indicate that the New River Lagoon has been a freshwater system throughout the period of record. For most of this time the lagoon has been hydrologically open, but there are indications that it may have become closed in the latest Pleistocene or very early Holocene. This may have been associated with a drier climate and lower sea level. Mid-Holocene records are consistent with those from elsewhere in the region, indicating a stable and moist climate. The late Holocene was marked by greater variability, but there is no clear evidence of any drying in the late Classic coincident with the Maya ‘collapse’ ca. AD 900. Our results indicate that the continuity of occupation at the Maya site of Lamanai on the shores of the New River Lagoon is consistent with continued access to freshwater during periods of regional climatic variability. The importance of conditions at individual sites when considering both system response and human vulnerability to climate change is emphasised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-641
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • climate
  • Holocene
  • Maya ‘collapse’
  • diatoms
  • stable isotopes


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