Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 319–338 | Cite as

Evolving coastal character of a Baltic Sea inlet during the Holocene shoreline regression: impact on coastal zone hypoxia

  • Wenxin Ning
  • Anupam Ghosh
  • Tom Jilbert
  • Caroline P. Slomp
  • Mansoor Khan
  • Johan Nyberg
  • Daniel J. Conley
  • Helena L. Filipsson
Original paper


Although bottom water hypoxia (O2 < 2 mg L−1) is presently widespread in the Baltic Sea coastal zone, there is a lack of insight into past changes in bottom water oxygen in these areas on timescales of millennia, and the possible driving factors. Here, we present a sediment-based environmental reconstruction of surface water productivity, salinity and bottom water oxygen for the past 5400 years at Gåsfjärden, a coastal site in SE Sweden. As proxies, we use dinoflagellate cysts, benthic foraminifera, organic carbon (Corg), biogenic silica (BSi), Corg/Ntot, Corg/Ptot, Ti/Al, K/Al and grain size distribution. The chronology of the sediment sequence is well constrained, based on 210Pb, 137Cs and AMS 14C dates. Between 3400 and 2100 BCE, isostatic conditions favored enhanced deep water exchange between Gåsfjärden and the open Baltic Sea. At that time, Gåsfjärden was characterized by relatively high productivity and salinity, as well as frequently occurring hypoxic-anoxic bottom water, despite the relatively large connection with the Baltic Sea. The most severe interval of oxygen depletion is recorded between 2400 and 2100 BCE, and appears to coincide with a similar hypoxic event in the Gotland Basin in the open Baltic Sea. As regional climate became wetter and colder between 2100 BCE and 700 BCE, salinity declined and bottom water oxygen conditions improved. Throughout the record, grain size, Ti/Al and K/Al data indicate an evolution towards a more enclosed coastal system, as suggested by reconstructions of the post-glacial shoreline regression. Gåsfjärden shifted to close to modern conditions after 700 BCE, and was characterized by less hypoxia and lower salinity compared with 3400–700 BCE. The timing of the shift corresponds with the Sub-Boreal/Sub-Atlantic transition in Europe. Human-induced erosion in the catchment is observed as early as 600 CE, and is particularly prominent since regional copper mining activity increased around 1700 CE. A sharp increase in sediment Corg concentration is recorded since the 1950s, indicating significant anthropogenic impact on biogeochemical cycles in the coastal zone, as observed elsewhere in the Baltic Sea.


Hypoxia Baltic Sea Holocene Biogeochemistry Dinoflagellate cyst Coastal zone 



We thank the captain and crew of R/V Ocean Surveyor for help during sampling. We thank Nathalie V. Putten and Åsa Wallin for guidance during grain size analysis. Anna Broström, Svante Björck, Anne Birgitte Nielsen and Conny Lenz are thanked for helpful discussions. Conny Lenz, Vincent Kofman and Leo de Jong assisted with sediment sampling and lab analysis. The project was funded by FORMAS Strong Research Environment: Managing Multiple Stressors in the Baltic Sea (217-2010-126). We also acknowledge funding from the Crafoord Foundation, the Royal Physiographic Society in Lund, and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO Vidi 86405.004 and ERC Starting Grant #278364). This work also resulted from the BONUS COCOA project supported by BONUS (Art 185), funded jointly by the EU and FORMAS. The hydrographic data used in the project were collected from SMHI’s database-SHARK. The SHARK data collection is organized by the environmental monitoring program and funded by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SWAM).

Supplementary material

10933_2016_9882_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (294 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 293 kb)
10933_2016_9882_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 20 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wenxin Ning
    • 1
  • Anupam Ghosh
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tom Jilbert
    • 3
    • 4
  • Caroline P. Slomp
    • 3
  • Mansoor Khan
    • 1
  • Johan Nyberg
    • 5
  • Daniel J. Conley
    • 1
  • Helena L. Filipsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Center of Advanced Study, Department of Geological SciencesJadavpur UniversityKolkataIndia
  3. 3.Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of GeosciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  5. 5.Geological Survey of SwedenUppsalaSweden

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