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In order to reconstruct past environmental conditions along the north-eastern Antarctic Peninsula, we documented changes in grain size, grain roundness, onlap as seen in ground-penetrating radar reflection profiles and ice-rafted debris on a set of 36 raised beaches developed over the last ~7.7 ± 0.9 ka on Joinville Island. The most pronounced changes in beach character occur at ~2.7–3.0 ka. At this time, there appears to have been a reintroduction of less rounded material, the development of stratification within individual beach ridges, an introduction of seaweed and limpets to the beach deposits, a change in clast provenance (although slightly earlier than the change in cobble roundness) and a shallowing of the overall beach plain slope. Prolonged cooling associated with the Neoglacial period may have contributed to these changes, as the readvance of glaciers could have changed the provenance of the beach deposits and introduced more material, leading to the change in roundness of the beach cobbles and the overall slope of the beach plain. This study suggests that late Holocene environmental change left a measurable impact on the coastal zone of Antarctica.
The sediments of closed-basin lakes on the margin of the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) are valuable archives of past changes in hydroclimate and dust activity and thus potentially can help us to understand future climate changes. We present high-resolution, well-dated records of the grain size and carbonate mineralogy from Lake Bayanchagan, northern China, spanning the last 11.5 ka. Grain-size endmember (EM) analysis distinguished four EMs, each linked to different sediment transport processes. EM1 (0.4–0.6 μm) and EM3 (14–102 μm) reflect the strength of regional dust activity, whereas EM2 (1.3–31 μm) represents variations in local hydrodynamic conditions related to lake-level changes and EM4 (68–500 μm) is associated with local dust activity. Our results show that a high lake level and weakened dust activity occurred during 10–5.8 ka, as indicated by increased EM2 and decreased EM3, respectively. After 5.8 ka, EM2 decreased as the three other EMs increased, and dolomite appeared in the sediments while calcite decreased—indicating both a decline in lake level and strengthened dust activity. The fluctuations in lake level and dust activity are in good agreement with precipitation variations reconstructed from other records, which are in turn correlated to movement of the EASM rainfall belt, in response to temperature changes.
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.
Sedimentary records from the Kumtag (also known as Kumtagh) Desert (KMD) in northwestern China are investigated to better understand Late Quaternary paleoenvironmental changes in this hyper-arid region. Presented here are the results of probably the first systematic survey of sedimentary sequences from the KMD, with the chronology determined by the optically stimulated luminescence dating. The variation of sedimentary facies, supported by granular and geochemical paleoenvironmental proxies, is used to decipher the history of Late Quaternary environment changes. The results demonstrate that a constantly dry condition characterized the eastern KMD since the last glacial maximum, but with occurrences of wetter periods. From ca. 17 to 15 ka, fluvial activity was probably triggered by melting of glaciers in mountains located south of the KMD. A distinctly drier stage (ca. 13–7 ka) was recognized due to the prominent occurrence of aeolian sands. A wetter environment likely persisted between ca. 4.4 and 2.2 ka, consistent with evidence of human activities. While the causes of paleoenvironmental changes in the eastern KMD are still a matter of debate, the melting of glaciers in the Altyn-Tagh Mountains in the south must be considered as an important factor.
We compare radiocarbon (14C) ages of coexisting planktonic foraminifera species from sediment cores VM12-107 and KNR166-2-26JPC from the Equatorial Atlantic Ocean for three time periods (Holocene, Heinrich Stadial 1, last glacial maximum). We find a maximum inter-species difference of 1200 14C yr. On average, the 14C ages deviate by ∼300 yr between Globigerinoides ruber and other species. In most cases, this exceeds the analytical uncertainty range of the measurements and thus renders the choice of species for generating age models as important as sample weight. While modern stratified water-column profiles imply an increase in 14C ages with water depth, we observe an expected parallel increase of 14C ages and δ18O only at VM12-107. The mismatch between 14C ages and δ18O at KNR166-2-26JPC likely results from the effects of bioturbation and the hydrographic setting. The largest difference in 14C ages between mixed-layer versus thermocline-calcifying planktonic foraminifera are observed during Heinrich Stadial 1 despite a decrease in upper-ocean stratification at that time. This difference is likely the result of inconsistent increases in 14C reservoir ages during times of reduced overturning circulation masking the potential of 14C ages of coexisting planktonic foraminifera to reflect the density stratification of the water column.
The timeframes of Holocene anthropogenic dune remobilization in Central Europe remain less studied compared to those of Late Glacial climatically controlled dune formation. The present contribution aims to reinforce existing knowledge on the chronology of Late Glacial–Holocene dune activity and stability, as well as to reveal the scale of human impact on dune remobilization. Accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) dating and calibration of the results are reported from paleosol horizons buried in inland dune deposits that occur in Central and Eastern Poland. Twenty-three new dates are based on charcoal samples collected at 13 sites. From each of the investigated sites, at least one AD date is obtained, indicating that buried paleosols of such young age are far more widespread in Polish dunes than reflected in previous studies. The widespread preservation of these paleosols under cover of aeolian sand reflects the extent of the anthropogenic dune formation phase that peaked during the Medieval and Early Modern periods.
The interpretation and understanding of the relationship between Middle to Late Holocene climate change in monsoon margins of northwest China with the westerlies and Asian monsoon (AM) remain controversial. Here we present a new multi-proxy sedimentary dataset from the Heihe River basin in the middle part of the Hexi Corridor on the northern margin of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP), which is a sensitive zone for the interaction between the westerlies and AM. Fluctuations in grain size, δ13Corg, δ18O, magnetic susceptibility, total organic carbon, total nitrogen, and C/N ratio document regional lake and climate evolution since 5334 cal yr BP. Results show that climate conditions on the millennial timescale are humid in the late Middle Holocene (MH) and dry to wet in the Late Holocene (LH). Combined with the multi-model ensemble simulation from PMIP3-CMIP5, high lake levels and wetter climate in the late MH are closely linked to the strengthening Asian summer monsoon. Simultaneously, the slight wetting trend since the late LH may be the superimposing effect of enhanced westerlies and the weakening Asian winter monsoon. These findings can provide insights into the interpretation of the interaction between the westerlies and AM during the Holocene in East Asia.
A 13.0 cal ka BP pollen record from Twin Ponds, Vermont, provides new insights into the climate history of the northeastern United States. Modern analogs were used to produce qualitative and quantitative climate reconstructions for Twin Ponds. The Twin Ponds record was compared with nearby Knob Hill Pond to develop a Vermont reconstruction that was compared with reconstructions from two sites at a similar latitude. Postglacial warming at 11.5 cal ka BP followed a cool, wet Younger Dryas and was the largest temperature change of the record. The warmest, driest conditions occurred at ca. 9.0 cal ka BP, followed by an increase in moisture. Latitudinal and elevational shifts in the location of modern analogs from 5.7 to 4.0 cal ka BP were used to infer cooling and increased moisture during the Tsuga canadensis decline. Analysis of the timing of pollen events between the two Vermont sites suggests a more rapid decline in T. canadensis at the more northern Knob Hill Pond and further supports the possibility that colder temperatures contributed to this event. The other northern sites show similar trends until 2.5 cal ka BP, when precipitation in the easternmost site diverges, indicating the establishment of modern climatic gradients.
New stalagmites from Qadisha Cave (Lebanon) located at 1720 m above sea level provide a high-resolution and well-dated record for northern Mount Lebanon. The stalagmites grew discontinuously from 9.2 to 5.7 and at 3.5 ka, and they show a tendency to move from a more negative oxygen isotope signal at ~9.1 ka to a more positive signal at ~5.8 ka. Such a trend reflects a change from a wetter to a drier climate at high altitudes. The δ13C signal shows rapid shifts throughout the record and a decreasing trend toward more negative values in the mid-Holocene, suggesting enhanced soil activity. In the short-term trend, Qadisha stalagmites record rapid dry/wet changes on centennial scales, with a tendency to more rapid dry events toward the mid-Holocene. Such changes are characterized by overall good agreement between both geochemical proxies and stalagmite growth and might be affected by the seasonal variations in snow cover. The Qadisha record is in good agreement with other Levantine records, showing more humid conditions from 9 to 7 ka. After 7 ka, a drier climate seems to affect sites at both low- and high-altitude areas. The Qadisha record reflects uniquely mountainous climate characteristics compared with other records, specifically the effect of snow cover and its duration regulating the effective infiltration.
Doctrinal religions that involve recognised gods, more formal theologies, moral codes, dedicated religious spaces and professional priesthoods emerged in two phases during the Neolithic. Almost all of these appeared in a narrow latitudinal band (the northern Subtropical Zone). I suggest that these developments were the result of a need to facilitate community bonding in response to scalar stresses that developed as community sizes increased dramatically beyond those typical of hunter–gatherer societies. Conditions for population growth (as indexed by rainfall patterns and the difference between pathogen load and the length of the growing season) were uniquely optimised in this zone, creating an environment of ecological release in which populations could grow unusually rapidly. The relationship between latitude, religion and language in contemporary societies suggests that the peculiar characteristics of the northern (but not the southern) Subtropical Zone were especially favourable for the evolution of large scale religions as a way of enforcing community cohesion.
Ubiquitous Holocene dune systems are associated with major west-to-east flowing rivers across the Southern Great Plains (SGP), USA. Critical questions remain as to whether aeolian activity reflects multiple environmental signatures, including increased sand supply from riverine sources. This research focused on the western Red River where geomorphic mapping revealed three terrace levels up to 16 m, buried partially by up to 10 m of aeolian sediments. Pedosedimentary facies analyses of sections and Geoprobe cores extracted from terraces and close-interval optically stimulated luminescence dating of quartz grains revealed two periods of fluvial aggradation at ca. 80 ka to ~5 to 8 m above the Red River forming the Vernon terrace, and at 30 to 13 ka to ~20–15 m, the highest identified Childress terrace. Net degradation of 20 m also occurred between 13 and 7 ka to 4 m below the current channel, reflecting regional fall in the groundwater level. The latest aggradation event, which built the lowest Luna terrace at ~2 m, ended 1.5 to 0.7 ka and was partially buried by fluvial-sourced dunes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This recent phase of aeolian deposition coincides with a comparatively wet period in the central United States during the Little Ice Age, rather than with regional drying.
Perspectives on past climate using lake sediments are critical for assessing modern and future climate change. These perspectives are especially important for water-stressed regions such as the western United States. One such region is northwestern California (CA), where Holocene-length hydroclimatic records are scarce. Here, we present a 9000-year, relative lake level record from Maddox Lake (CA) using a multi-indicator approach. The Early Holocene is characterized by variably low lake levels with a brief excursion to wetter climates/relative highstand ca. 8.4–8.06 cal ka BP, possibly related to the 8.2 ka cold event and changing Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). From 5.2–0.55 cal ka BP, Maddox Lake experienced a long-term regression, tracking changes in summer-winter insolation, tropical and northeast Pacific SSTs, and the southward migration of the ITCZ. This gradual regression culminated in a pronounced relative lowstand during the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA). A marked relative highstand followed the MCA, correlative to the Little Ice Age. The latter reflects a far-field response to North Atlantic volcanism, solar variability, and possibly changes in AMOC and Arctic sea ice extent. Our results further confirm the hydroclimatic sensitivity of northwest California to various forcings including those emanating from the North Atlantic.
This paper examines patterns of human–environmental interactions across northern Asia during the Holocene, in order to summarize current knowledge and identify key areas for future research. To achieve these goals, currently available chronological, cultural, and paleoenvironmental datasets from the east Russian Arctic for the last 10,000 14C years were integrated. Study regions include the Taymyr Peninsula, Lena River basin (except its southern part), northeastern Siberia, and Kamchatka Peninsula. Several broad-scale correlations between climatic fluctuations and cultural responses (e.g., subsistence strategies and occupation densities) were identified; however, these are not straightforward. For example, the increase of occupations during the warm periods in the Early–Middle Holocene are notable while the most pronounced rises coincide with a cooling trend in the Late Holocene. This shows that the human–environmental relationships in the Holocene were not linear; more interdisciplinary research will be needed to construct higher resolution data for understanding prehistoric cultural responses to past environmental changes in the Asian Arctic.
Sedentary foraging is not identical to agriculture, which involves cultivation of plants and eventually their domestication. Cultivation appears to have developed in southwest Asia during a large negative climate shock called the Younger Dryas. After a prolonged period of warm and wet conditions during which regional population reached a high level, an abrupt reversion to colder and drier conditions forced this large regional population into a few high quality refuge sites where surface water was available from rivers, lakes, marshes, and springs. The resulting spike in local populations at these sites drove down the marginal product of labor in foraging and triggered reallocation of some labor toward cultivation. Once some populations adopted cultivation, learning by doing reinforced the incentive to engage in it. Eventually climate improved in the Holocene, regional population grew, and agriculture spread. We believe this mechanism accounts for the archaeological facts in the case of southwest Asia, and similar mechanisms might account for other pristine agricultural transitions (e.g., in China and sub-Saharan Africa). Our model clarifies the causal roles of climate, geography, technology, population, and migration in the development of pristine agriculture. It also helps explain why certain regions did not experience pristine agricultural transitions.
Our study of economic prehistory begins with mobile foraging in the Upper Paleolithic. Foraging bands can obtain food from various natural resources. At a given point in time, some resources are actively exploited while others are latent. Social learning improves techniques specific to the exploited resources but with diminishing returns over time. Societies can experience lengthy periods of technological stagnation where latent resources are not used due to inadequate techniques, but techniques do not improve because these resources are not used. A positive climate shift can increase the standard of living in the short run, generating population growth in the long run. Agents then exploit previously latent resources, broadening the diet. Once new resources are in use, learning by doing raises productivity in the very long run, causing more population growth, until a new equilibrium is reached with an increased population and wider diet. The expansion of technological knowledge creates a ratchet effect where a return to the original climate regime need not imply that population or diet breadth will return to their initial levels. These mechanisms can explain how humans migrated into more severe environments over time without reference to resource depletion due to overharvesting.
The fluvial geomorphology and stratigraphy on the middle Snake River at Bancroft Springs, Idaho, provide evidence for numerous episodes of Snake River aggradation and incision since the Bonneville Flood at ca. 18 ka. A suite of seven terraces ranging from 20–1 m above modern bankfull elevation records multiple cut-and-fill cycles during the latest Pleistocene and Holocene in response to local base-level controls, variations in sediment supply, and hydroclimate change. Radiocarbon and luminescence dating show that the ages of fluvial aggradation generally coincide with increased sediment supply and likely wetter hydroclimate during onset of the Younger Dryas stadial (ca. 13.2 ka), deglaciation and termination of the Younger Dryas stadial (ca. 11.3 ka), Early Holocene cooling (ca. 8.8 ka), and Neoglacial (ca. 4.5, 2.9, 1.1 ka). Six intervening periods of incision and channel stability may also reflect either reduced sediment supply, drier hydroclimate, or both. The terrace chronology can be correlated to a variety of local and regional paleoclimate proxy records and corresponds well with periods of continental- and global-scale rapid climate change during the Holocene. The fluvial record demonstrates the geomorphic response and sensitivity of large river systems to changes in hydroclimate variability, which has important implications for inferring paleoenvironmental conditions in the region.
Continuous records of sediment yield spanning from the late glacial through the Holocene to the present day provide an important opportunity to investigate landscape evolution over various timescales in response to a variety of natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms. This study investigates variations in sediment yield and landscape evolution in the 768 km2 watershed of Ossipee Lake, New Hampshire, USA. We pair subbottom sonar observations with analyses of lacustrine sediment cores to interpret a 12,000+ yr record of lake sedimentation in terms of changes in sediment yield and landscape evolution. Our results indicate high rates of sediment redistribution following deglaciation at ~14,500 to ~12,000 cal yr BP, followed by a period of gradually decreasing sediment yield until ~9000 cal yr BP, marking the termination of the most intense period of paraglacial landscape adjustment. From 9000 cal yr BP to 1850 CE, sediment yield is highly variable and reveals a slightly increasing trend that we attribute to a dominant hydroclimatic control on erosion driven by increasing effective precipitation in the region throughout the Holocene. Despite evidence for a highly dynamic landscape and an abundance of unconsolidated glacigenic surface deposits throughout the watershed, we interpret a modest erosional impact from anthropogenic land use.
The transition to the Neolithic on the East European Plain was a very different process to the Western model, featuring a long-lasting hunter-gatherer economy and late introduction of agriculture. The authors present results from multiproxy research on a 13.5m-deep core of organic deposits from the Serteya mire as part of an international research project to understand human-environment relations in the Western Dvina Lakeland.
Paleoecological and modern studies at Priyatnoye Lake, which is located within an intermontane depression in the interior of northeastern Siberia, indicate a similar paleovegetation record as has been documented for nearby mountain valleys, but a history of basin stability and instability that is uncharacteristic of the valley lakes. Analyses of a 385-cm-long core from the western basin of Priyatnoye Lake shows that sediment accumulation began in late Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 3 (MIS 3), followed by a hiatus during MIS 2, and then continuous accumulation over the past ca. 14,000 cal yr BP. The eastern basin of the lake has a sediment thickness of ~35 cm, suggesting that it intermittently contained water and/or is younger than the western basin. A drop in lake levels between AD 2005 and AD 2009 resulted in the formation of two distinct lakes. This change was caused by the melting of underlying ice wedges and the formation of sinkholes through which the lake water drained. Although the northern coastal lowlands have been the geographic focus of permafrost global warming research, the Priyatnoye study draws attention to the intermontane depressions in northeastern Siberia. While less extensive, these depressions contain organic-rich deposits, are underlain by permafrost, and have the potential to affect future carbon budgets as global temperatures rise and permafrost melts.
Holocene sediments at Emerald Lake in central Utah (3090 m asl) document the paleohydroclimatic history of the western Upper Colorado River headwater region. Multi-proxy analyses of sediment composition, mineralogy, and stable isotopes of carbonate (δ18O and δ13C) show changes in effective moisture for the past ca. 10,000 years at millennial to decadal timescales. Emerald Lake originated as a shallow, closed-basin cirque pond during the Early Holocene. By ca. 7000 cal yr BP, higher lake levels and carbonate δ18O values indicate rising effective moisture and higher proportions of summer precipitation continued at least until ca. 5500 cal yr BP when a landslide entered the lake margin. Between ca. 4500 and 2400 cal yr BP dry conditions at Emerald Lake envelop the timing of the ‘Late Holocene Dry Period’ identified at lower elevations. For the past ca. 2500 years, Emerald Lake δ18O values were relatively low, indicating wetter conditions and higher snow input (compared to rain), except for dry periods at ca. 2000 cal yr BP and during the Medieval Climate Anomaly at ca. 1000 and ca. 500 cal yr BP. Results provide a long-term perspective on precipitation extremes that influence regional water supplies from a snow-dominated catchment typical of the predominant source region for the Upper Colorado River.