Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences

, Volume 52, Issue 8, pp 1127–1136 | Cite as

Reconstruction of paleocoastlines for the northwestern South China Sea since the Last Glacial Maximum

  • YanTao YaoEmail author
  • Jan Harff
  • Michael Meyer
  • WenHuan Zhan


The range of relative sea level rise in the northwestern South China Sea since the Last Glacial Maximum was over 100 m. As a result, lowland regions including the Northeast Vietnam coast, Beibu Gulf, and South China coast experienced an evolution from land to sea. Based on the principle of reconstructing paleogeography and using recent digital elevation model, relative sea level curves, and sediment accumulation data, this paper presents a series of paleogeographic scenarios back to 20 cal. ka BP for the northwestern South China Sea. The scenarios demonstrate the entire process of coastline changes for the area of interest. During the late glacial period from 20 to 15 cal. ka BP, coastline slowly retreated, causing a land loss of only 1×104 km2, and thus the land-sea distribution remained nearly unchanged. Later in 15–10 cal. ka BP coastline rapidly retreated and area of land loss was up to 24×104km2, causing lowlands around Northeast Vietnam and South China soon to be underwater. Coastline retreat continued quite rapidly during the early Holocene. From 10 to 6 cal. ka BP land area had decreased by 9×104km2, and during that process the Qiongzhou Strait completely opened up. Since the mid Holocene, main controls on coastline change are from vertical crustal movements and sedimentation. Transgression was surpassed by regression, resulting in a land accretion of about 10×104km2.


relative sea level change paleocoastline reconstruction Last Glacial Maximum northwestern South China Sea 


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Copyright information

© Science in China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • YanTao Yao
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jan Harff
    • 3
  • Michael Meyer
    • 3
  • WenHuan Zhan
    • 1
  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea Geology, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research WarnemündeRostockGermany

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