, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 339-353
Date: 19 Dec 2012

Holocene vegetational and climatic variation in westerly-dominated areas of Central Asia inferred from the Sayram Lake in northern Xinjiang, China

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Changes in the vegetation and climate of the westerly-dominated areas in Central Asia during the Holocene were interpreted using pollen-assemblages and charcoal data from a 300-cm-long sediment core of the Sayram Lake, northern Xinjiang. Accele-rator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating methods were applied to bulk organic matter of the samples. Artemisia spp./Chenopodiaceae ratios and results from principal component analysis were used to infer that the lake basin was dominated by desert vegetation before ca. 9.6 cal. ka BP, which suggests a warm and dry climate in the early Holocene. Desert steppe/steppe expanded during 9.6-5.5 cal. ka BP, indicating a remarkable increase both in the precipitation and temperature during the mid-Holocene. Desert vegetation dominated between 6.5 and 5.5 cal. ka BP, marking an extreme warmer and drier interval. The steppe/meadow steppe recovered, and temperatures decreased from 5.5 cal. ka BP in the late Holocene, as indicated by the increased abundance of Artemisia and the development of meadows. Holocene temperatures and moisture variations in the Sayram Lake areas were similar to those of adjacent areas. This consistency implies that solar radiation was the main driving factor for regional temperature changes, and that the effect of temperature variations was significant on regional changes in humidity. The evolution of climate and environment in the Sayram Lake areas, which were characterized as dry in the early Holocene and relatively humid in the middle-late Holocene, are clearly different from those in monsoonal areas. Dry conditions in the early Holocene in the Sayram Lake areas were closely related to decreased water vapor advection. These conditions were a result of reduced westerly wind speeds and less evaporation upstream, which in turn were caused by seasonal changes in solar radiation superimposed by strong evaporation following warming and drying local climate.