Displaced marine diatoms provide biostratigraphic evidence for tsunami inundation at Bradley Lake, a small freshwater lake on the south-central Oregon coast. During the past 7,200 years, fine-grained lacustrine deposits in the deep axis of the lake were disturbed 17 times by the erosion and emplacement of coarse-grained gyttja and, in some cases, sand. By identifying diatoms in closely spaced core samples, we determined that 13 of the 17 events (termed idisturbance eventsi) record prehistoric tsunamis in Bradley Lake. We consider the evidence strong for 11 events, based on numbers and diversity of marine taxa: De1, De2, De4, De5, De6, De7, De8, De11, De12, De13, and De17. The evidence is less compelling for an additional 2 events (De9 and De10), although tsunami inundation is likely. Finally, we identified 4 events (De3, De14, De15 and De16) in which there were no marine diatoms to support tsunami inundation, although stratigraphic data shows that the lake bottom was disturbed.
Freshwater diatoms dominate throughout the Bradley Lake record, showing that the lake has remained a freshwater habitat throughout its existence. However, anomalous occurrences of three species of brackish diatoms (Thalassiosira bramaputrae, Cyclotella meneghiniana, and Mastogloia smithii) may be evidence for short-lived periods of slightly elevated salinities in the lake following De16, De13, De12, De11, De9, De8, and De5. With the exception of De12, increased abundances of one or more of the brackish species is coincident with decreased numbers of freshwater diatoms. A temporary rise in salinity, as evidenced by short-lived increases in abundances of brackish species and decreases in abundances of freshwater species, is consistent with tsunami inundation into the lake.