Late Glacial and Holocene development of Lake Donggi Cona, north-eastern Tibetan Plateau, inferred from sedimentological analysis

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Opitz, S. , Wünnemann, B. , Aichner, B. , Dietze, E. , Hartmann, K. , Herzschuh, U. , IJmker, J. , Lehmkuhl, F. , Li, S. , Mischke, S. , Plotzki, A. , Stauch, G. and Diekmann, B. (2012): Late Glacial and Holocene development of Lake Donggi Cona, north-eastern Tibetan Plateau, inferred from sedimentological analysis , Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 337-33 , pp. 159-176 . doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.04.013
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Sediments of Lake Donggi Cona on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau were studied to infer changes in the lacustrine depositional environment, related to climatic and non-climatic changes during the last 19 kyr. The lake today fills a 30×8 km big and 95 m deep tectonic basin, associated with the Kunlun Fault. The study was conducted on a sediment-core transect through the lake basin, in order to gain a complete picture of spatiotemporal environmental change. The recovered sediments are partly finely laminated and are composed of calcareous muds with variable amounts of carbonate micrite, organic matter, detrital silt and clay. On the basis of sedimentological, geochemical, and mineralogical data up to five lithological units (LU) can be distinguished that document distinct stages in the development of the lake system. The onset of the lowermost LU with lacustrine muds above basal sands indicates that lake level was at least 39 m below the present level and started to rise after 19 ka, possibly in response to regional deglaciation. At this time, the lacustrine environment was characterized by detrital sediment influx and the deposition of siliciclastic sediment. In two sediment cores, upward grain-size coarsening documents a lake-level fall after 13 cal ka BP, possibly associated with the late-glacial Younger Dryas stadial. From 11.5 to 4.3 cal ka BP, grainsize fining in sediment cores from the profundal coring sites and the onset of lacustrine deposition at a litoral core site (2m water depth) in a recent marginal bay of Donggi Cona document lake-level rise during the early to mid-Holocene to at least modern level. In addition, high biological productivity and pronounced precipitation of carbonate micrites are consistent with warm and moist climate conditions related to an enhanced influence of summer monsoon. At 4.3 cal ka BP the lake system shifted from an aragonite- to a calcite-dominated system, indicating a change towards a fully open hydrological lake system. The younger clay-rich sediments are moreover non-laminated and lack any diagenetic sulphides, pointing to fully ventilated conditions, and the prevailing absence of lake stratification. This turning point in lake history could imply either a threshold response to insolation-forced climate cooling or a response to a non-climatic trigger, such as an erosional event or a tectonic pulse that induced a strong earthquake, which is difficult to decide from our data base.

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