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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.
The history of past hydroclimatic extreme events, essential information for predicting future changes, is preserved in fluvial sediments. Here, we reconstruct changes in decadal-scale extreme flooding events over the period 7700–1700 cal yr BP from floodplain sediments in the middle reach of the Nakdong River, Korea, based on lithogenic elemental ratios (e.g., Zr/Ti and Sr/Si). For example, Nakdong extreme flooding (NEF) events frequently occurred at 7700, 7200, 6000, 5000, 3800, 3200, 2900, 2600, 2300, 2000, and 1700 cal yr BP, and were associated with higher sea-surface temperatures and strong El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) activity. Notably, we found a significant change in the frequency of extreme events ca. 3700 cal yr BP over East Asia. The hydroclimate fluctuated with dominant periodicities of 950 and 540 years in 7700–3700 cal yr BP and shorter centennial to decadal cycles (320, 110–120, and 60–75 years) in 3700–1700 cal yr BP. This 3.7-ka climatic shift is consistent with a marked southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone, intensified ENSO activity, increased frequency of recurving typhoons, and deep-ocean circulation changes in both the northern and southern hemispheres, demonstrating the urgent need for investigating the critical role of past deep-water circulation in hydroclimate changes.
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.
We reconstructed the centennial climate changes for the period of 9–7 cal ka BP in the upper region of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River Delta plain. A general warming and wetting trend from 8560 to 7220 cal yr BP was indicated by the decrease in Quercus (deciduous) and increases in Quercus (evergreen), Pinus, and Polypodiaceae spores. However, there were several brief climate fluctuations. A notable palynological change, from regional assemblages dominated by arboreal pollen to local assemblages mainly consisting of nonarboreal pollen, reflects climate fluctuations. The key indices of Quercus (deciduous), Pinus, herbs, fern spores, and palynological concentrations showed similar signs of centennial climate fluctuations. We suggest that the climate changes of the Dongge Cave and Yangtze River Delta regions were mainly affected by the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) during the period of 9–7 cal ka BP. The general warming trend may be associated with an intensified EASM, and solar activity may be one of the important factors driving the centennial climate changes. The ~8.2 ka event was also recorded in the Yangtze River Delta region, which suggests that there was a close relationship between the EASM and Greenland climate during the early Holocene.
We have obtained a high-resolution sedimentary record covering the last 6500 yr from a maar in Cheju Island, Korea, in order to reconstruct the history of variations in the eolian quartz flux (EQF) and hence Asian dust. The long-term variation of EQF reveals three intervals: a period of high EQF (4000–2000 cal yr B.P.) and two periods of low EQF (6500–4000 cal yr B.P. and 2000 cal yr B.P. to present), which have been affected by the East Asian monsoon due to insolation change and the cold air activity in high latitudes correlated with polar high-pressure systems. This long-term variation is superimposed by millennial- and centennial-scale fluctuations with periodicities of 1137, 739, 214, 162, 137, 127, and 111 yr, implying drier conditions in the source areas in China. The detrended EQF record correlates visually and statistically (cross-spectral analysis) with the atmospheric Δ14C record (solar proxy). The centennial-scale variability in EQF may be affected by the solar activity through the Sun–East Asian monsoon linkage.
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.
Late Pleistocene carbon isotope (δ13C) records from a paleolithic sedimentary sequence collected from Baeki, Hongcheon, central Korea, show long-term changes with superimposed short-term isotopic excursions. The δ13C value of the sedimentary organic matter, a proxy for past vegetation change, varied from − 26‰ to − 23‰ for the period between 30 and 90 ka, with a long-term variation similar to insolation changes. High-amplitude (− 1‰ to approximately − 1.5‰) fluctuations superimposed on the long-term changes in the δ13C values decreased during stronger summer monsoon intervals but increased during the weakened summer monsoon. This millennial-scale pattern is generally similar to Greenland Dansgaard–Oeschger (D–O) cycles. The possible connection between the Hongcheon area, Korea and high latitudes may be explained by atmospheric circulation changing in response to the D–O oscillations in the Northern Hemisphere.
To trace past changes in flooding frequency, we investigated fluvial sediments in the middle reach of the Nakdong River, South Korea. Sediments with larger grain size, lower total organic carbon percentage, and depleted δ13C values in the recovered sediment cores were interpreted as periods of more frequent flooding. Patterns of decreased long-term flooding frequency and vegetation changes during the early to late Holocene were similar to the decreasing regional summer monsoon intensity. Multicentennial frequent flooding periods in the study area (2900–3400 cal yr BP, 3600–3900 cal yr BP, 4600–5300 cal yr BP, and 5800–6400 cal yr BP) corresponded to stronger El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) activity periods. Based on previous studies showing that high-frequency tropical typhoon-driven coastal inundation along the western coast of Japan during the middle to late Holocene was coupled with stronger ENSO activity, it is likely that the observed centennial-to-millennial-scale flood frequency change in South Korea was influenced mainly by changes in the genesis and tracks of tropical typhoons at centennial-to-millennial time scales. This suggests that the centennial-to-millennial-scale hydrologic changes in East Asia were linked to the remote atmospheric-oceanic circulation changes represented by an ENSO-like pattern.
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