Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 85–99 | Cite as

Middle to late Holocene initiation of the annual flood pulse in Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

  • Mary Beth Day
  • David A. Hodell
  • Mark Brenner
  • Jason H. Curtis
  • George D. Kamenov
  • Thomas P. Guilderson
  • Larry C. Peterson
  • William F. Kenney
  • Alan L. Kolata
Original paper


Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia, possesses one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world and is a vital natural resource for the country. The lake is connected to the Mekong River via the Tonle Sap River. Flow in the Tonle Sap River reverses seasonally, with water exiting the lake in the dry season and entering the lake during the summer monsoon. This flood pulse drives the lake’s biological productivity. We used Sr, Nd, and Pb isotopes and elemental concentrations in lake sediment cores to track changes in the provenance of deposits in Tonle Sap Lake. We sought to determine when the lake first began to receive water and sediment input via the Mekong River, which initiated flood pulse processes. The transition from a non-pulsing lake to the Mekong-connected system is marked by shifts to values of 87Sr/86Sr, εNd, and 207Pb/204Pb that are characteristic of Mekong River sediments. In addition, magnetic susceptibility increased and sediment elemental composition changed. Elemental (P) measures point to enhanced phosphorus loading and C/N and isotope ratios of bulk organic matter indicate a shift to greater relative contribution of organic material from aquatic versus terrestrial environments, coinciding with the initiation of flood pulse processes. On the basis of radiocarbon dating in two cores, we estimate the initiation of the annual flood pulse occurred between ~4,450 and 3,910 cal year BP.


Tonle Sap Lake Flood pulse Mekong River Cambodia Radiogenic isotopes 



This work was supported, in part, by research funds provided by the Marion and Adolph Lichtstern Fund and the Neukom Family Distinguished Service Professorship held by ALK. Additional support to MBD was provided by the Gates Cambridge Trust and a University of Florida Alumni Fellowship. Radiocarbon analyses for core TS-18-XII-03 were performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under contract DE-AC52-07NA27344. Radiocarbon analyses for core CHH-17-XII-03 were funded by NERC Radiocarbon Analysis Allocation Number 1452.1009. Many thanks to Simon Crowhurst, Gianna Browne and Jaime Escobar for their enthusiastic assistance in the lab. This work was completed under authorization from the Ministry of the Environment of the Kingdom of Cambodia and with permission of the Director of the APSARA Authority. We greatly appreciate logistical support provided by the Center for Khmer Studies, particularly former executive director Dr. Philippe Peycam. Thanks also to Laurent Holdener, Jake Janisa, Yi Sokpol, KotYi Ney, Meas Uon, Heng Poy, and Kun Ny for their help in the field. Finally, we would like to acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10933_2010_9482_MOESM1_ESM.doc (106 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Beth Day
    • 1
    • 7
  • David A. Hodell
    • 2
  • Mark Brenner
    • 3
  • Jason H. Curtis
    • 1
  • George D. Kamenov
    • 1
  • Thomas P. Guilderson
    • 4
  • Larry C. Peterson
    • 5
  • William F. Kenney
    • 3
  • Alan L. Kolata
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research, Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Department of Geological Sciences and Land Use and Environmental Change InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Center for Accelerator Mass SpectrometryLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLivermoreUSA
  5. 5.Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  7. 7.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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