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Coastal evolution is influenced by past sea-level changes and resultant shifts from fluvial- to marine-dominant environments and the accompanying significant geochemical and isotopic changes in the water mass and sediments. We investigated the elemental and isotopic features of coastal sedimentary cores (27 m in length) from a small paleo-bay located on the southern coast of Korea to determine such geochemical variability and specify past changes in the bay environment and anoxic conditions and possible links to past climate changes. We analyzed total organic carbon (TOC), total sulfur (TS), their isotopes (δ13CTOC and δ34STS), and pyrite. The δ13CTOC values ranging from −25 to −19‰ (a proxy for terrestrial influence) were lower than average (−22.5‰) before 8300 cal yr BP and since 500 cal yr BP, while the intervening Early to Late Holocene showed higher δ13CTOC values, indicating a shallow coastal environment. The δ34STS values fluctuating between −35 and +5‰ resembled sedimentation rate change. Based on the changes in the ratios of TOC to TS (C/S ratios), sedimentation rate, and δ34STS, we found five possible periods with higher salinity and intensified anoxic conditions at millennial timescales: 8900–8200, 7950–6500, 5200–4300, 3500–2600, and 2000–1100 cal yr BP. These intensified anoxic conditions seem to have been influenced by increased air temperature and sea-surface temperature conditions, which could have intensified the intensity of thermal stratification (less ventilation and mixing) between surface and bottom waters and resultant anoxic conditions.
To explore sea level transgression in low-lying inland areas and its possible influence on prehistoric cultures, we investigated the physical and geochemical features of 20-m-long sedimentary cores from the previously seawater-filled Daesan Basin located in the middle reach of the present Nakdong River in Korea as proxies for seawater transgression deep inland areas due to Holocene sea level rise. Based on the relationships among grain size, total sulfur content (TS%), and carbon/sulfur (C/S) ratio, the first transgressive event was detected at ca. 8500 cal yr BP, caused by seawater influx along the present Nakdong River. Higher TS% (0.8–1%) and interbedded fossil oysters at 8000–6000 cal yr BP indicate marine environments, supporting a paleo-Daesan Bay with water depth of ~10–8 m. The common peaks in TS%, in both inland paleo-Daesan Bay and a present coastal area (Suncheon Bay) in southern Korea (e.g., at 3200 and 4700 cal yr BP), may indicate intervals of higher salinity, which suggests simultaneous responses to changes in sea level or hydroclimate. The duration of marine environment (paleo-Daesan Bay) in the remote inland from ca. 8000–3200 cal yr BP provides an analog for inland paleo-bay studies in East Asia.
Large herbivores can disperse seeds over long distances through endozoochory. The Korean water deer (Hydropotes inermis argyropus), an internationally vulnerable species but locally considered a vermin, is a potential endozoochorous seed dispersal vector. In this study, feeding experiments were conducted to test the efficiency of seed dispersal through gut ingestion by the Korean water deer, its temporal pattern and the effect of gut passage on seed recovery and germination rate. Eight plant species, including species that formerly germinated from its faeces, were used to feed three Korean water deer. Once the deer had consumed all the provided seeds, their faeces were collected after 24, 48, 72 and 96 h. The collected faeces were air-dried, and the number of seeds retrieved from the faeces was counted every 24 h (0–24, 24–48, 48–72 and 72–96 h). Among the eight plant species, six species were retrieved with intact seeds. Panicum bisulcatum had the highest recovery rate of 33.7%, followed by Amaranthus mangostanus (24.5%) and Chenopodium album (14.4%). Most of the seeds were recovered within the 24–48 h time interval. Germination tests were conducted on the ingested and uningested seeds for the four species which had a sufficient recovery rate. The effects of gut passage on seed germination differed according to plant species. The germination rate substantially decreased after gut passage. The results suggest that the Korean water deer can disperse seeds, potentially over long distances albeit at a high cost of low seed recovery and germination rate.
Radiocarbon (14C) dating has been widely used to determine the age of deposits, but there have been frequent reports of inconsistencies in age among different dating materials. In this study, we performed radiocarbon dating on a total of 33 samples from 8-m-long sediment cores recovered from the wetland of the Muljangori volcanic cone on Jeju Island, South Korea. Ten pairs of humic acid (HA) and plant fragments (PF) samples, and three pairs of HA and humin samples, from the same depths were compared in terms of age. The PF were consistently younger than the HA. Interestingly, the age difference between HA and PF samples showed a long-term change during the past 8000 years. To test whether there was an association between this long-term age difference and climate change, we compared with the carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratios and total organic carbon isotope (δ13CTOC) values of the sediments, as indicators of the relative abundance of terrestrial and aquatic plants; these parameters showed similar long-term trends. This suggests that the increasing (decreasing) trend in age difference was influenced by long-term dry (wet) climate change.