, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 287-296
Date: 05 Oct 2006

Late Quaternary sediments on the outer shelf of the Korea Strait and their paleoceanographic implications

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Sedimentological and micropaleontological characteristics of core sediments from the outer shelf of the Korea Strait, which connects the northern East China Sea and the East Sea (Sea of Japan), were investigated to elucidate the paleoceanographic environment, especially the timing of the Kuroshio inflow, since the last glacial maximum. The core sediments, containing continuous records of the last 15,000 years, are characterized by a relatively high mud content (more than 50%, on average) and well-developed tide-influenced sedimentary structures. Their mineralogy suggests that the material originated from the paleo-Nakdong River system, which extended across the shelf of the Korea Strait during low sea-level periods. Planktonic foraminifers reveal a series of well-defined changes in paleoceanographic conditions during the late Pleistocene–Holocene. Down-core variations in the abundance of four foraminiferal assemblages, i.e., cold, coastal, tropical–subtropical, and Kuroshio water groups comprising characteristic planktonic species, suggest the occurrence of a distinct paleoenvironmental change in the surface water at 7,000 years b.p., i.e., from 15,000 to 7,000 years b.p., the area was influenced by coastal waters whereas since ca. 7,000 years b.p., it has been under the influence of open-sea water related to the Kuroshio Current flow, associated with both higher temperature and higher salinity. In particular, Pulleniatina obliquiloculata increased markedly in abundance at this time, documenting the inflow of the Kuroshio into the study area. These data indicate that the coastal water stage terminated at ca. 7,000 years b.p. when the warm Kuroshio and its major branch, the Tsushima Current, began to flow into the East Sea, as is the case today. The intrusion of the Tsushima Current through the Korea Strait after ca. 7,000 years b.p. resulted in abrupt changes in sedimentation rates and a dramatic increase in abundance of the Kuroshio indicator species, P. obliquiloculata.