Late Holocene tephrostratigraphy from Cajas National Park, southern Ecuador

Stephanie H. Arcusa, Tobias Schneider, Pablo V. Mosquera, Hendrik Vogel, Darrell Kaufman, Sönke Szidat, Martin Grosjean


Lakes located downwind of active volcanoes serve as a natural repository for volcanic ash (tephra) produced during eruptive events. In this study, sediment cores from four lakes in Cajas National Park, southern Ecuador, situated approximately 200 km downwind of active volcanoes in the Northern Andes Volcanic Zone, were analysed to document the regional history of tephra fall extending back around 3,000 a cal BP. The ages of the lacustrine sedimentary sequences were constrained using a total of 20 AMS radiocarbon ages on plant remains. The tephra layers were correlated among the lakes based on their radiocarbon age, elemental composition, colour, and grain morphology. We found five unique tephra layers, each at least 0.2 cm thick, and further constrained their ages by combining the results from two age-depth modelling approaches (clam and rbacon). The tephra layers were deposited 3,034±621, 2,027±41, 1,557±177, 733±112, and 450±70 a cal BP. The ages of all but the youngest tephra layer overlap with those of known eruptions from Tungurahua. Some tephra layers are missing as macroscopic layers in several cores, with only two of the five tephra layers visible in the sediment of three lakes. Likewise, previous studies of lake sediment cores from the region are missing the four youngest tephra layers, further highlighting the need to sample multiple lakes to reconstruct a comprehensive history of fallout events. The newly documented stratigraphic marker layers will benefit future studies of lake sediments in Cajas National Park.


Tephra; Taphonomy; Tephra morphology; Radiocarbon; 14C chronology; Limnogeology; Andes; South America

How to cite this article Arcusa, S.; Schneider, T.; Mosquera, P.; Vogel, H.; Kaufman, D.; Szidat, S.; Grosjean, M. 2020, Late Holocene tephrostratigraphy from Cajas National Park, southern Ecuador. Andean Geology 47 (3): 508-528. [doi:]