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Few records in the alpine landscape of western North America document the geomorphic and glaciologic response to climate change during the Pleistocene–Holocene transition. While moraines can provide snapshots of glacier extent, high-resolution records of environmental response to the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, Younger Dryas cooling, and subsequent warming into the stable Holocene are rare. We describe the transition from the late Pleistocene to the Holocene using a ~ 17,000-yr sediment record from Swiftcurrent Lake in eastern Glacier National Park, MT, with a focus on the period from ~ 17 to 11 ka. Total organic and inorganic carbon, grain size, and carbon/nitrogen data provide evidence for glacial retreat from the late Pleistocene into the Holocene, with the exception of a well-constrained advance during the Younger Dryas from 12.75 to 11.5 ka. Increased detrital carbonate concentration in Swiftcurrent Lake sediment reflects enhanced glacial erosion and sediment transport, likely a result of a more proximal ice terminus position and a reduction in the number of alpine lakes acting as sediment sinks in the valley.
Macro- and megafossil studies are of great value in palaeoecology because such evidence is spatially precise, directly radiocarbon dated, and usually taxon-specific. Here, we present new macro- and megafossil data from ten sites from the Gredos Mountains, central Iberian Peninsula, that suggest persistent forest cover through the late Holocene, with a widespread belt of pinewoods in the highlands of the Central Iberian Mountains. Well-preserved pine cones found at several sites revealed that both Pinus sylvestris and Pinus nigra were present in the area during the middle and late Holocene at locations of important biogeographical interest. The P. sylvestris forests represent one of the southernmost locations of its entire range. P. nigra was not known to have occurred in central Spain during the Holocene; it was found at the westernmost edge of its range in siliceous soils, a rare environment compared with the rest of its distribution. Finally, we explored the potential for obtaining a long pine chronology from central Iberia using tree-ring measurements and radiocarbon dating of pine subfossil logs.
We present reconstructions of late Holocene changes in the source of organic matter and siliceous export production in the Relocanví Fjord (41°S, 72°W), Northern Chilean Patagonia, based on organic carbon content, δ13Corg, N/C ratio, diatom assemblages and biogenic silica contents from three sediment cores. The age models are based on a combination of 210Pb profiles, AMS 14C dating, and on the first occurrence of the diatom Rhizosolenia setigera f. pungens, as a stratigraphic marker in the fjords. The cores span the last 300 to 700 yr. Diatoms dominate the siliceous assemblages in the three cores (98% on average). Our results suggest that precipitation seasonality in the region of Reloncaví was high in CE 1300–1400 and CE 1700–1850, with a clear decreasing trend since CE 1850. The latter trend is in agreement with instrumental records and tree-ring reconstructions. These fluctuations seem to be associated with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM).
To trace the surficial responses of lowlands to past climate change, we investigated δ13C in total organic carbon (TOC), C/N ratios, magnetic susceptibility (MS), and silicon (Si) intensity (directly proportional to concentration) in wetland sediments collected from the Gimpo area of central Korea, covering 6600–4600 cal yr BP. Two organic layers with high TOC%, negatively depleted δ13CTOC values (− 27 to − 29‰), low MS values, and low Si intensities were found at 6200–5900 and 5200–4800 cal yr BP, respectively. These middle Holocene wet periods corresponded to relatively intensified summer monsoon and solar activity periods. The intervening dry period (5900–5200 cal yr BP) with high MS, high Si, and low TOC% corresponded to an intensified dust-activity interval and stronger winter monsoon. This multi-centennial climatic fluctuation of wet periods (6200–5900 cal yr BP and 5200–4800 cal yr BP) and an intervening dry period (5900–5200 cal yr BP) in central Korea was more synchronous with climate change in the arid inner part of China than with that in South China, suggesting possible strong high-latitude-driven climatic influences (e.g., North Atlantic cooling events) during the middle Holocene.
The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major source of climatic variation worldwide, with significant impacts on modern human and animal populations. However, few detailed records exist on the long-term effects of ENSO on prehistoric vertebrate populations. Here we examine how lagomorph (rabbit and hare) deposition rate, population age structure and taxonomic composition from Abrigo de los Escorpiones, a well-dated, trans-Holocene vertebrate fauna from northern Baja California, Mexico, vary as a function of the frequency of wet El Niño events and eastern Pacific sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) derived from eastern Pacific geological records. Faunal indices vary significantly in response to El Niño-based precipitation and SST, with substantial moisture-driven variability in the middle and late Holocene. The late Holocene moisture pulse is coincident with previously documented changes in the population dynamics of other vertebrates, including humans. As the frequency and intensity of ENSO is anticipated to vary in the future, these results have important implications for change in future vertebrate populations.
Shorelines and surficial deposits (including buried forest-floor mats and organic-rich wetland sediments) show that Great Salt Lake did not rise higher than modern lake levels during the earliest Holocene (11.5–10.2 cal ka BP; 10–9 14C ka BP). During that period, finely laminated, organic-rich muds (sapropel) containing brine-shrimp cysts and pellets and interbedded sodium-sulfate salts were deposited on the lake floor. Sapropel deposition was probably caused by stratification of the water column — a freshwater cap possibly was formed by groundwater, which had been stored in upland aquifers during the immediately preceding late-Pleistocene deep-lake cycle (Lake Bonneville), and was actively discharging on the basin floor. A climate characterized by low precipitation and runoff, combined with local areas of groundwater discharge in piedmont settings, could explain the apparent conflict between evidence for a shallow lake (a dry climate) and previously published interpretations for a moist climate in the Great Salt Lake basin of the eastern Great Basin.
Late Quaternary reflooding of the Persian Gulf climaxed with the mid-Holocene highstand previously variously dated between 6 and 3.4 ka. Examination of the stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental context of a mid-Holocene whale beaching allows us to accurately constrain the timing of the transgressive, highstand and regressive phases of the mid- to late Holocene sea-level highstand in the Persian Gulf. Mid-Holocene transgression of the Gulf surpassed today's sea level by 7100–6890 cal yr BP, attaining a highstand of > 1 m above current sea level shortly after 5290–4570 cal yr BP before falling back to current levels by 1440–1170 cal yr BP. The cetacean beached into an intertidal hardground pond during the transgressive phase (5300–4960 cal yr BP) with continued transgression interring the skeleton in shallow-subtidal sediments. Subsequent relative sea-level fall produced a forced regression with consequent progradation of the coastal system. These new ages refine previously reported timings for the mid- to late Holocene sea-level highstand published for other regions. By so doing, they allow us to constrain the timing of this correlatable global eustatic event more accurately.
We present a study based on four inland eolian locations in Eastern, Central and Southeastern Lithuania belonging to the northeastern part of the ‘European Sand Belt’ (ESB). Although there have been several previous studies of the ESB, this north-eastern extension has not been investigated before in any detail. The sedimentary structural–textural features are investigated and a chronology was derived using optically stimulated luminescence on both quartz and feldspar. The sedimentary structures and the rounding and surface characteristics of the quartz grains argue for a predominance of eolian transport. Additionally, some structural alternations and a significant contribution of non-eolian grains are interpreted as inherited local glacial/glaciofluvial-bearing lithologies.
Three main (glaciolacustrine–) eolian phases are distinguished based on the position in the landscape and the luminescence ages: (1) An older eolian series around 15 to 16 ka, possibly correlated with the cold GS-2a event according to the GRIP stratigraphy, and (2) a younger eolian series around 14.0 ka, possibly representing the GI-1d and 1c events. The older eolian series is underlain by (3) a glaciolacustrine–eolian series for which the period of deposition remains uncertain due to the significant discrepancy between the ages based on quartz and feldspar.
Climatic and ecological conditions during Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 3 are complex and the impact of cold spells on the ecosystems in Central Europe still needs to be investigated thoroughly. Ziegeleigrube Coenen (ZC) is a late Pleistocene MIS 3 locality in the Lower Rhine Embayment of Germany, radiocarbon-dated to > 34 14C ka BP. The site yielded a broad spectrum of mammal species. We investigated the carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N) and sulfur (δ34S) isotope signatures of bone collagen, since these are valuable tools in characterizing ecological niches, environmental conditions and aspects of climate and mobility. By comparison with pre- and post-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) sites in Central Europe we show that ZC belongs in a cold event of MIS 3 and was climatically more similar to post-LGM sites than to pre-LGM sites. However, the trophic structure resembled that of typical pre-LGM sites in Belgium. This cold event in MIS 3 changed the bottom of the foodweb, but do not seem to have had a direct impact on the occurrence of the mammalian species and their ecological distribution. Apparently the (mega-) faunal community could adapt also to harsher environmental conditions during MIS 3.
This study presents stratigraphic, geomorphic, and paleoenvironmental (δ13C) data that provide insight into the late Pleistocene landscape evolution of the Cimarron River valley in the High Plains of southwestern Kansas. Two distinct valley fills (T-1 and T-2) were investigated. Three soils occur in the T-2 fill and five in the T-1 fill, all indicating periods of landscape stability or slow sedimentation. Of particular interest are two cumulic soils dating to ca. 48–28 and 13–12.5 ka. δ13C values are consistent with regional paleoenvironmental proxy data that indicate the prevalence of warm, dry conditions at these times. The Cimarron River is interpreted to have responded to these climatic changes and to local base level control. Specifically, aggradation occurred during cool, wet periods and slow sedimentation with cumulic soil formation occurred under warmer, drier climates. Significant valley incision (~ 25 m) by ca. 28 ka likely resulted from a lowering of local base level caused by deep-seated dissolution of Permian evaporite deposits.
Kalahari Group sediments accumulated in the Kalahari basin, which started forming during the breakup of Gondwana in the early Cretaceous. These sediments cover an extensive part of southern Africa and form a low-relief landscape. Current models assume that the Kalahari Group accumulated throughout the entire Cenozoic. However, chronology has been restricted to early–middle Cenozoic biostratigraphic correlations and to OSL dating of only the past ~ 300 ka. We present a new chronological framework that reveals a dynamic nature of sedimentation in the southern Kalahari. Cosmogenic burial ages obtained from a 55 m section of Kalahari Group sediments from the Mamatwan Mine, southern Kalahari, indicate that the majority of deposition at this location occurred rapidly at 1–1.2 Ma. This Pleistocene sequence overlies the Archaean basement, forming a significant hiatus that permits the possibility of many Phanerozoic cycles of deposition and erosion no longer preserved in the sedimentary record. Our data also establish the existence of a shallow early–middle Pleistocene water body that persisted for > 450 ka prior to this rapid period of deposition. Evidence from neighboring archeological excavations in southern Africa suggests an association of high-density hominin occupation with this water body.
The tufa deposits of the Ghaap Plateau escarpment provide a rich, yet minimally explored, geological archive of climate and environmental history coincident with hominin evolution in South Africa. This study examines the sedimentary and geochemical records of ancient and modern tufas from Buxton-Norlim Limeworks, Groot Kloof, and Gorrokop, to assess the potential of these sediments for providing reliable chronologies of high-resolution, paleoenvironmental information. Chronometric dating demonstrates that tufa formation has occurred from at least the terminal Pliocene through to the modern day. The stable isotope records show a trend toward higher, more variable δ18O and δ13C values with decreasing age from the end of the Pliocene onwards. The long-term increase in δ18O values corresponds to increasingly arid conditions, while increasing δ13C values reflect the changing proportion of C3/C4 vegetation in the local environment. Analysis of the Thabaseek Tufa, in particular, provides valuable evidence for reconstructing the depositional and chronological context of the enigmatic Taung Child (Australopithecus africanus). Collectively, the results of the present study demonstrate the potential of these deposits for developing high-precision records of climate change and ultimately, for understanding the causal processes relating climate and hominin evolution.
Stable isotopic analysis of carbon and nitrogen in human and faunal remains has been widely used to reconstruct prehistoric diets and environmental changes. Isotopic analysis of plant remains allows for a more extensive consideration of paleodiets and can potentially provide information about the environment in which the crops were grown. This paper reports the results of δ13C and δ15N analyses performed on modern and charred archaeological foxtail millet samples collected from the western part of the Chinese Loess Plateau. The δ13C mean value of modern samples is lower than that of ancient samples. There is a significant difference between grain and leaf δ15N values. These results challenge the standard assumption in isotope studies that the nitrogen isotope signals of the different part of plants consumed by humans and animals are the same. The 3–5‰ difference between human and animal δ15N values is always regarded as an indicator of whether human diets contained considerable animal protein. The difference between grain and leaf δ15N values makes this assumption problematic in a foxtail millet-dominated society.