, Volume 53, Issue 7, pp 1049-1061
Date: 23 May 2008

Pollen record and environmental evolution of Caotanhu wetland in Xinjiang since 4550 cal. a BP

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This paper presents a multi-proxy reconstruction of the climate change in Caotanhu wetland using pollen, phytolith and charcoal records, and the data of loss of ignition (LOI), grain size analysis, and susceptibility. Results reveal that between 4550 and 2500 cal. a BP, a dry climatic condition was not favorable for the accumulation of peat. Since 2500 cal. a BP, the climate became humid and the wetland developed with abundant freshwater aquatic plants, which contributed to peat accumulation. Nevertheless, alternate periods of rain and dry climate occurred during that period. Between 2500 and 1810 cal. a BP (550 BC-140 AD), the climate was more humid than at present. A lot of emerged plants, such as Phragmites, Typha and Sparganium, and freshwater green algae grew in the wetland which was surrounded by desert-steppe vegetation composed mainly of Chenopodiaceae, Artemisia, Compositae and Thalictrum. However, from 1810 to 1160 cal. a BP (140–790 AD), the water level started to decrease and hydrophyte species reduced greatly, but some Phragmites still grew in the wetland and around it was desert vegetation with high proportion of Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia. Then from 1160 to 650 a BP (790–1300 AD), it entered a period of desert-steppe with abundant mesic and xerophytic plants. And a lot of aquatic plants prevailed in the wetland. Here, what is noticeable is that percentages of arboreal pollen, consisting mainly of Betula and Picea, increased greatly and reached a maximal value of 27.2%, in which, Betula percentages rose to 23.2%. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that Betula grew in the highland of the wetland, or Picea timberline shifted downward resulting in the increase of percentages of Betula and Picea pollen, which were transported into the wetland by flood or wind. But since 650 cal. a BP, desert vegetation prevailed around the wetland again with dominant Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia, and the climate was similar to modern one. Despite some aquatic plants still growing in the wetland at that time, their amounts diminished greatly.

Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 40601104), the Key Project of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 90102009), the Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars, Ministry of Education of PRC