The Holocene evolution and palaeosalinity history of Beall Lake, Windmill Islands (East Antarctica) using an expanded diatom-based weighted averaging model

Donna Roberts, Andrew McMinn*, Holger Cremer, Damian B. Gore, Martin Melles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A mid-Holocene climate optimum is inferred from a palaeosalinity reconstruction of a closed saline lake (Beall Lake) from the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica using an expanded diatom salinity weighted averaging (WA) regression and calibration model. The addition of 14 lakes and ponds from the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica, to an existing weighted averaging regression and calibration palaeosalinity model of 33 lakes from the Vestfold Hills, East Antarctica expands the number of taxa and lakes and the range of salinity in the existing model and improves the model's predictive ability. This improved model was used to infer Holocene changes in lake water salinity in Beall Lake, Windmill Islands. Six changes in diatom-inferred salinity in Beall Lake are put into broad chronological context based on three radiocarbon dates: as the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) retreated from the Windmill Islands during the early Holocene (∼9000-8130 corr. yr BP), Beall Lake formed as a melt water-fed freshwater lake, which gradually became more saline as marine influence increased from ∼8000 corr. yr BP. Between ∼8000 and 4800 corr. yr BP, the diatom assemblage included planktonic marine taxa such as Chaetoceros spp. and cryophilic taxa such as Fragilariopsis cylindrus, which indicate favourable summer growth conditions. A mid-Holocene warm period produced a climate that was warmer and more humid with increased precipitation and snow accumulation. This is reflected in the Beall Lake core as a reduction in the salinity of the lake diatom assemblage from ∼4800-4600 corr. yr BP. Holocene isostatic uplift rates in the Windmill Islands vary from 5-6 m/1000 yr. By applying this uplift rate, it is calculated that the bedrock would have risen above sea level by ∼4000 yr BP. The Beall Lake core diatom assemblage from ∼4600-2900 corr. yr BP includes both marine cryophilic and planktonic taxa together with freshwater benthic and planktonic lacustrine taxa. This mix of species indicates the emergence of the lake from the sea around ∼4600 corr. yr BP. From ∼2800 corr. yr BP, retreat of the ice margin led to increasing melt water inputs and associated freshening of the lake basin until ∼1900 corr. yr BP. The lake basin had no oceanic influence by this time, allowing a terrestrial freshwater flora to establish and thrive for the next ∼1000 yr. At ∼1850 corr. yr BP, a sudden and rapid salinity change is evident in Beall Lake. A late Holocene warm period between 2000 and 1000 yr BP has been observed in ice core records from Law Dome (an ice cap abutting the Windmill Islands to the east and north). It is therefore inferred that, at ∼1850 corr. yr BP, summer temperatures within the Beall Lake catchment area were much higher than present summer temperatures. The climate optimum identified in the Beall Lake core ∼4800 yr BP confirms mid-Holocene warming of the Windmill Islands and suggests a synchronous mid-Holocene climate optimum occurred across coastal East Antarctica. In addition, the abrupt climate change inferred at ∼1850 yr BP suggests that higher resolution sampling of sediment cores from coastal East Antarctic limnological oases will provide more evidence of rapid climate change events over coastal East Antarctica in future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-140
Number of pages20
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume208
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2004

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