In DepthAncient Climate

DNA from Arctic lakes traces past climate impacts

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Science  13 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6471, pp. 1296-1297
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6471.1296

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Summary

Researchers are using DNA preserved for tens of thousands of years in ancient sediments to show how Arctic plants responded to past climate shifts—hinting at how they might respond in the future. Arctic lakes have emerged as the premier archive for sedimentary ancient DNA, because they collect clues to entire ecosystems. Leaves, flowers, dung—some part of every organism that lives around a lake ends up in the water. This week, researchers reported evidence that one lake on Baffin Island, in northern Canada, harbors DNA from as far back as the Eemian, a period 125,000 years ago when the Arctic was warmer than today. The Arctic ecosystems of that time might offer a glimpse of what is to come as Earth continues to warm.

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