Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 52, Issue 1–2, pp 27–41 | Cite as

Sclerochronological oxygen and carbon isotope ratios in Radix (Gastropoda) shells indicate changes of glacial meltwater flux and temperature since 4,200 cal yr BP at Lake Karakul, eastern Pamirs (Tajikistan)

  • Linda TaftEmail author
  • Steffen Mischke
  • Uwe Wiechert
  • Christian Leipe
  • Ilhomjon Rajabov
  • Frank Riedel
Original paper


We report δ18O and δ13C values of 21 fossil shells from the aquatic gastropod Radix from a sediment core taken in the eastern basin of Lake Karakul, Tajikistan (38.86–39.16°N, 73.26–73.56°E, 3,928 m above sea level) and covering the last 4,200 cal yr BP. The lake is surrounded by many palaeoshorelines evidencing former lake-level changes, most likely triggered by changes in meltwater flux. This hypothesis was tested by interpreting the isotope ratios of Radix shells together with δ18O values of Ostracoda and of authigenic aragonite. The mean δ18O values of Radix and Ostracoda fall along the same long-term trend indicating a change in the isotopic composition of precipitation, which contributed to the glaciers in the catchment as snow and finally as melt water to the lake. The sclerochronological δ18O and δ13C patterns in Radix shells provide seasonal weather information, which is discussed in context with previously proposed climatic changes during the last 4,200 cal yr BP. The period between ~4,200 and 3,000 cal yr BP was characterized by stepwise glacier advance in the catchment most likely due to a precipitation surplus. Subsequently the climate remained relatively cold but the lake level fluctuated, as indicated by ostracod shell isotope data. From ~1,800 cal yr BP the sclerochronological patterns provide evidence for increasing melt water flux and transport of allochthonous carbon into the lake, most likely due to an accelerated glacier retreat. The period around 1,500 cal yr BP was characterized by strong warming, increasing meltwater flux, glacier retreat and an increasing lake level. Warm conditions continued until ~500 cal yr ΒP probably representing the end of the Medieval Warm Period. A short relatively cold (dry?) period and a lower lake level are assumed for ~350 cal yr BP, possibly an analogue to the Maunder Minimum cooling in the North Atlantic region. Our results show that the lake system is complex, and that changes were triggered by external forcing and feedbacks. The similarity of δ18O values in Radix and ostracod shells demonstrates that both archives provide complementary information.


Palaeolimnology Stable isotopes Gastropods Sclerochronology Late Holocene Central Asia 



We are grateful to Maike Glos and Matthias Friebel (both FU Berlin) for the sample processing and to Nailya Mustaeva for logistical support during the fieldwork. Funding was provided by the Research Commission of the FUB, the Center for International Cooperation (FUB), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Science Foundation (DFG). The comments of T.J. Whitmore and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda Taft
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steffen Mischke
    • 1
    • 2
  • Uwe Wiechert
    • 1
  • Christian Leipe
    • 1
  • Ilhomjon Rajabov
    • 3
  • Frank Riedel
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Geological SciencesFree University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  3. 3.State Administration for Hydrometeorology of the Committee for Environmental Protection Under the Government of the Republic of TajikistanDushanbeTajikistan
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Plateau Lake Ecology and Global Change, College of Tourism and GeographyYunnan Normal UniversityKunmingChina

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