Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 645–660 | Cite as

Hydroclimatic variations over the last two glacial/interglacial cycles at Lake Urmia, Iran

  • Lora R. Stevens
  • Morteza Djamali
  • Valérie Andrieu-Ponel
  • Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
Original paper


A coarse-resolution, absolutely dated isotope record spanning the last 180 ka was constructed from aragonite-rich fecal pellets in a sediment core from Lake Urmia, Iran. The isotope record is not continuous as a consequence of detrital calcite that contaminates the pellets at certain depths. An isotopic correction was applied to samples > 50% aragonite, using the δ18O values of calcite-only pellets. Absolute dates were derived from U-Th analyses on pellets > 80% aragonite. The resultant δ18O record and sediment lithofacies confirm that the Penultimate Glacial was cold and dry, with pronounced interstadials at ca. 150 and >175 ka. Deglaciation began at ca. 130 ka, but climate was unstable and supported a probable no-analog vegetation assemblage. The onset of true interglacial conditions occurred at ca. 126 ka. Peak moisture conditions lasted for 5–6 ka before the climate became drier, with the loss of some tree taxa towards the end of the Last Interglacial. A period of greater moisture occurred between 116 and 108 ka, overlapping in timing with interstadial conditions recorded in the Soreq Cave speleothem record. In general, stadial to interstadial transitions (OIS 5d-5c, 5b-5a) are marked by decreasing δ18O values and rising lake levels. The nature of the OIS 5 to OIS 4 transition cannot be resolved in this study because of the loss of 5 m of core and imprecise dates. According to the present chronology, δ18O values, and inferred lake levels, arid conditions began at 60 ka and persisted until Termination I. Episodic increases in moisture, characterized by layers of aragonite-rich pellets, ostracodes, and the pollen of trees and/or aquatic plants, occurred during the Last Glacial. Deglaciation associated with the Late-glacial Interstadial began at 14 ka but was interrupted by a marked Younger Dryas event that resulted in renewed aridity. The Holocene began at approximately 10 ka. Despite large errors in the chronology, the overall timing and pattern of effective moisture matches the record from Soreq Cave, Israel, suggesting that the two regions were climatically in-phase.


Climate change Penultimate Glacial Last Interglacial Oxygen isotope Near East 



This study was funded in part by grant NSF P2C2-0903117. We extend our sincerest thanks to Dr. Abdolhossein Amini (University of Tehran) who kindly provided the core samples, Majid Shah-Hosseini who provided us with the original unpublished data of his MSc thesis, and Dr. Hai Cheng (University of Minnesota) who worked extensively with the authors on acquiring the best U-Th dates possible. We would also like to recognize M. Shimizu, C. De Masi, K. Boyd, and M. Weide, who assisted in the painstaking picking of the fecal pellets. We also thank two anonymous reviewers, whose comments greatly improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lora R. Stevens
    • 1
  • Morteza Djamali
    • 2
  • Valérie Andrieu-Ponel
    • 2
  • Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesCalifornia State University-Long BeachLong BeachUSA
  2. 2.Institut Méditerranéen d’Ecologie et de Paléoécologie (IMEP UMR CNRS 6116)Europôle Méditerranéen de l’ArboisAix-en-Provence, Cedex 04France

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