Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 511–523 | Cite as

Mid- to- late Holocene hydroclimatic changes on the Chinese Loess Plateau: evidence from n-alkanes from the sediments of Tianchi Lake

  • Huiling Sun
  • James Bendle
  • Osamu Seki
  • Aifeng Zhou
Original paper


We have reconstructed the history of mid-late Holocene paleohydrological changes in the Chinese Loess Plateau using n-alkane data from a sediment core in Tianchi Lake. We used Paq (the proportion of aquatic macrophytes to the total plant community) to reflect changes in lake water level, with a higher abundance of submerged macrophytes indicating a lower water level and vice versa. The Paq-based hydrological reconstruction agrees with various other lines of evidence, including ACL (average chain length), CPI (carbon preference index), C/N ratio and the n-alkane molecular distribution of the sediments in Tianchi Lake. The results reveal that the lake water level was relatively high during 5.7–3.2 ka BP, and decreased gradually thereafter. Our paleohydrological reconstruction is consistent with existing paleoclimate reconstructions from the Loess Plateau, which suggest a humid mid-Holocene, but is asynchronous with paleoclimatic records from central China which indicate an arid mid-Holocene. Overall, our results confirm that the intensity of the rainfall delivered by the EASM (East Asian summer monsoon) is an important factor in affecting paleohydrological changes in the region and can be considered as further evidence for the development of a spatially asynchronous “northern China drought and southern China flood” precipitation pattern during the Holocene.


n-Alkanes Paq Lake level Mid-late Holocene Loess Plateau 



We thank Dr. Christopher Gallacher and Dr. Heiko Moossen for their training and help with laboratory analyses. This research was supported by Grants from the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC Grants 41761044 and 41771208). We thank the China Scholarship Council (CSC) for funding a 20-month visit (File no. 2009618032) by Huiling Sun to work with Dr. James Bendle (now at the University of Birmingham) as a joint Ph.D. student (Lanzhou-Glasgow) at the G-MOL laboratory in Glasgow.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Plateau Lake Ecology and Global Change, College of Tourism and GeographyYunnan Normal UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  3. 3.Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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