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Permafrost, landscape and ecosystem responses to late Quaternary warm stages in Northeast Siberia

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Wetterich, S. , Kienast, F. , Schirrmeister, L. , Fritz, M. , Andreev, A. and Tarasov, P. (2012): Permafrost, landscape and ecosystem responses to late Quaternary warm stages in Northeast Siberia , The International Polar Year (IPY) 2012 Conference, Montréal, Canada, 22 April 2012 - 27 April 2012 .
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Permafrost, landscape and ecosystem responses to late Quaternary warm stages in Northeast Siberia S. Wetterich1, F. Kienast2, L. Schirrmeister1, M. Fritz1, A. Andreev3, P. Tarasov4 1Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Department of Periglacial Research, Potsdam, Germany; 2Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Research Station for Quaternary Palaeontology, Weimar, Germany; 3Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, Germany; 4Institute of Geological Sciences, Free University Berlin, Germany Perennially frozen ground is widely distributed in Arctic lowlands and beyond. Permafrost responds sensitive to changes in climate conditions. Climate-driven dynamics of landscape, sedimentation and ecology in periglacial regions are frequently recorded in permafrost deposits. The study of late Quaternary permafrost can therefore reveal past glacial-interglacial and stadialinterstadial environmental dynamics. One of the most striking processes under warming climate conditions is the extensive thawing of permafrost (thermokarst) and subsequent surface subsidence. Thermokarst basins promote the development of lakes, whose sedimentological and paleontological records give insights into past interglacial and interstadial (warm). In this paper we present results of qualitative and quantitative reconstructions of climate and environmental conditions for the last Interglacial (MIS 5e, Kazantsevo; ca. 130 to 115 ka ago), the lateglacial Allerød Interstadial (ca. 13 to 11 uncal. ka BP), and the early Holocene (ca. 10.5 to 8 uncal. ka BP). The study was performed in course of the IPY project #15 ‘Past Permafrost’ with permafrost deposits exposed at the coasts of the Dmitry Laptev Strait (East Siberian Sea, East Siberia). The reconstruction based on fossil-rich findings of plants (pollen, macro-remains) and invertebrates (beetles, chironomids, ostracods gastropods). Interglacial vegetation dynamics are reflected in the pollen records by changes from early interglacial grass-sedge-tundra to shrub-tundra during the interglacial thermal optimum followed by grass-sedge-tundra vegetation at the end of the Kazantsevo warm period. Terrestrial beetle and plant remains prove the former existence of open forest tundra with Dahurian larch, grey alder and boreal shrubs interspersed with patches of steppes and meadows during the interglacial thermal optimum. Mean temperature reconstructions of the warmest month (MTWA, TJuly) for the interglacial thermal optimum are based on quantitative chironomid transfer functions revealed a TJuly of 12.9 ± 0.9 °C. The TJuly reconstructed by plant macrofossils amounts to 13.2 ± 0.5 °C, and the pollen-based TJuly reaches 14.3 ± 3.3 °C. Low net precipitation is reflected by steppe plants and beetles. The temperature reconstruction based on three independent approaches. Nethertheless, all methods consistently indicate an interglacial TJuly about 10 °C higher than today, which is interpreted as a result of a combination of increased insolation and higher climatic continentality during the last Interglacial. Grass-sedge dominated tundra vegetation occurred during the lateglacial to Holocene transition which was replaced by shrub tundra during the early Holocene. The presence of Salix and Betula pollen reflects temperatures about 4 °C higher than present between 12 to 11 uncal. ka BP, during the Allerød Interstadial, but shrubs disappeared in the following Younger Dryas stadial, reflecting a climate deterioration. Alnus fruticosa, Betula nana, Poaceae and Cyperaceae dominate early Holocene pollen spectra. Pollen-based reconstructions point to TJuly 4 °C warmer than present. Shrubs gradually disappeared from coastal areas after 7.6 uncal. ka BP when vegetation cover became similar to modern wet tundra. Thermokarst acted as response to warming conditions on landscape scale in permafrost regions. Concurrent changes in relief, hydrology and ecosystems are obvious and detectable by analyses of the paleontological record preserved in thermokarst deposits.

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