International Journal of Astrobiology

Paleolimnology in the High Arctic – implications for the exploration of Mars

Darlene S.S. Lim a1 and Charles S. Cockell a2
a1 Paleoenvironmental Assessment Laboratory (PAL), Department of Geology, 22 Russell Street, Earth Sciences Building, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3B1 e-mail:
a2 British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK and SETI Institute/NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000, USA


Paleolimnology provides information on the past chemical, physical and biological nature of water bodies. In polar regions, where global climatic changes can be exacerbated compared with lower latitudes, the science has become important for reconstructing past changes and in so doing, predicting possible effects of future changes. Owing to the association of life with water bodies, particularly stable water bodies sustained over many millennia, paleolake regions on the surface of Mars are of exobiological importance. In this mini-review, we use experience gathered in the High Arctic to describe the importance of paleolimnology in the Earth's polar regions as it pertains to the future application of this science to robotic and human exploration missions to the planet Mars.

(Accepted November 15 2002)

Key Words: High Arctic; Lacustrine; Mars; paleolakes; paleolimnology; sediment profiles; terrestrial analogues.