Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 111–128 | Cite as

Late Holocene hydrology of Lake Maharlou, southwest Iran, inferred from high-resolution sedimentological and geochemical analyses

  • Elodie BrissetEmail author
  • Morteza Djamali
  • Edouard Bard
  • Daniel Borschneck
  • Emmanuel Gandouin
  • Marta Garcia
  • Lora Stevens
  • Kazuyo Tachikawa
Original paper


Sedimentological (dry density, micro-facies analysis on thin-slides, X-ray diffraction, layer counting) and elemental analyses (X-ray fluorescence) of a 3.5-m-long sediment core (MAH-B) from saline Lake Maharlou (SW Iran) were used to infer hydrological changes over the last ~ 3800 years. The sediment consists of thin, alternating beds of evaporites (halite, gypsum), carbonates (calcite, aragonite) and detrital minerals (quartz, muscovite, chlorite). We interpret the data with respect to three main hydrologic conditions: (1) nearly complete desiccation of the lake, marked by frequent halite layers, (2) hypersaline conditions marked by gypsum abundance, (3) wet conditions, characterized by high river-borne terrigenous sediment input with high potassium content. Distinct flood layers indicate fluvial activity. From about 3800–2000 cal year BP, terrigenous sediment supply was high, with peaks at 3700–3650, 3500–3450, and 3400–3250 cal year BP. Evaporative conditions were not common. From ca. 2000 cal year BP to present, detrital minerals are less abundant, and the increase in gypsum abundance suggests drier climate with enhanced evaporation. Frequent desiccation events occurred from 1100 to 700 cal year BP. The late Holocene hydrology of Lake Maharlou corresponds well with records of dune formation and phases of river alluviation in Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, and with regional speleothem records. In addition to the influence of climate change on the lake hydrology, ancient humans modified water drainage in the catchment. Periods of subterranean tunnel (qanats) use correspond to dramatic shrinkage of the water body. We propose that climate changes drove long-term water shortages that were enhanced by anthropogenic activities, leading to more frequent desiccation of the lake during the last millennium.


Paleohydrology Saline lake Evaporite Detrital supply Drought Human disturbance 



This study was funded by the Franco-German ANR/DGF titled PALEO-PERSEPOLIS (ANR-14-CE35-0026-01). The authors thank M. Köhler (MK Factory) for thin-section preparation and T. Goslar (Poznan Radiocarbon Laboratory) for 14C measurements and related details on sample preparation and blank correction. A. Naderi-Beni and M. Pourkerman from the Iranian National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences are thanked for their help with the coring operation. We are grateful to the reviewers and M. Brenner (Editor in Chief of JOPL) for their salient suggestions for improvement of the manuscript.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, IRD, UMR 7263 IMBE, Univ AvignonAix Marseille UnivAix-en-ProvenceFrance
  2. 2.IPHESTarragonaSpain
  3. 3.Àrea de PrehistòriaUniversitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)TarragonaSpain
  4. 4.CNRS, IRD, Coll France, CEREGEAix Marseille UnivAix-en-ProvenceFrance
  5. 5.Department of Geological SciencesCalifornia State UniversityLong BeachUSA

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