Frontiers of Earth Science

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 10–17 | Cite as

Phytolith records of the climate change since the past 15000 years in the middle reach of the Yangtze River in China

  • Yansheng Gu
  • Hanlin Wang
  • Xianyu Huang
  • Hongxia Peng
  • Junhua Huang
Research Article


Based on 14C dating and core sediments survey, phytolith records are employed to reconstruct paleovegetation and paleoclimate in the Jianghan Plain in the middle reach of the Yangtze River. Phytoliths identified are assigned into 21 well-described morphotypes and divided into four groups (Poaceae, fern, coniferous and broad-leaved). The phytolith assemblages together with warmth index (I w) are divided into 18 ecological zones, which reflect a complete vegetation history related to climate change in the middle reach of the Yangtze River during the past 15000 years. On the basis of the correlation of phytolith records with the paleoclimatic indicators from stalagmite, peatland, North Atlantic deep-sea sediments, Loess Plateau of Central China, and Arabic Sea sediments, eight climatic phases are identified included Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (20–14.8 cal kaBP), Last Deglaciation (LDG) (14.8–11.9 cal kaBP), low-temperature phase in the Early Holocene (11.9–8 cal kaBP), Holocene Optimum (8–4.9 cal kaBP), Holocene Katathermal (4.9–1.1 cal kaBP), Medieval Warmth Period (MWP) (1.1–0.7 cal kaBP), Little Ice Age (LIA) (0.7–0.15 cal kaBP), and Modern Warming (0.15 cal kaBP — present). Climatic events such as Bolling-Allerod warm intervals, Older Dryas, Inter-Allerod Cold Period, and Younger Dryas, and eight Holocene Bond events (B1–8) have been identified since the LDG. Our results demonstrate that the evolution of the climate in the research area has a strong link with the Indian Summer Monsoon (SW Monsoon), Asian Summer Monsoon (SE Monsoon), and Holocene events in North Atlantic simultaneously, which might indicate that solar variability affects the Earth surface climate system at the centennial and millennial scales.


core sediments middle reach of the Yangtze River 15000 years phytolith assemblages paleovegetation paleoclimate 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Berger A L (1978). Long-term variations of caloric insolation resulting from the Earth’s orbital elements. Quat Res, 9(2): 139–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bond G, Kromer B, Beer J, Muscheler R, Evans M N, Showers W, Hoffmann S, Lotti-Bond R, Hajdas I, Bonani G (2001). Persistent solar influence on North Atlantic climate during the Holocene. Science, 294(5549): 2130–2136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bond G, Showers W, Cheseby M, Lotti R, Almasi P, deMenocal P, Priore P, Cullen H, Hajdas I, Bonani G (1997). A pervasive millennial-scale cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and glacial climates. Science, 278(5341): 1257–1266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown D A (1984). Prospects and limits of a phytolith key for grasses in the central United States. J Archaeol Sci, 11(4): 345–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gu Y S, Ge J W, Huang J H, Zhu J (2009). Climate Change and Human Activity and Its Relationship with the Evolution of the Jianghan Lakes over the Past 20000 Years. Beijing: Geology Press, 46–51 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  6. Gu Y S, Pearsall D M, Xie S C, Yu J X (2008). Vegetation and fire history of a Chinese site in southern tropical Xishuangbanna derived from phytolith and charcoal records from Holocene sediments. J Biogeogr, 35(2): 325–341Google Scholar
  7. Herzschuh U (2006). Palaeo-moisture evolution in monsoonal Central Asia during the last 50000 years. Quat Sci Rev, 25(1–2): 163–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hu C Y, Henderson G M, Huang J H, Xie S C, Johnson K R (2008). Quantification of Holocene Asian Monsoon rainfall from spatially separated cave records. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 266(3–4): 221–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Huang X Y, Xie S C, Zhang C L, Jiao D, Huang J H, Yu J X, Jin F, Gu Y S (2008). Distribution of aliphatic des-A-triterpenoids in the Dajiuhu peat deposit, southern China. Org Geochem, 39(12): 1765–1771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Li W Y, Liu G X, Zhou M M (1992). Vegetation and climate during the Holocene Megathermal in Western Hubei Province. In: Shi Y F, Kong Z C, eds. The Climates and Environments of Holocene Megathermal in China. Beijing: China Ocean Press, 48–65 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  11. Lu H Y, Wu N Q, Yang X D, Jiang H, Liu K B, Liu T S (2006). Phytoliths as quantitative indicators for the reconstruction of past environmental conditions in China I: phytolith-based transfer functions. Quat Sci Rev, 25(9–10): 945–959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ma C M, Zhu C, Zheng C G, Wu C L, Guan Y, Zhao Z P, Huang L Y, Huang R (2008). High-resolution geochemistry records of climate changes since Late-glacial from Dajiuhu peat in Shennongjia Mountains, central China. Chin Sci Bull, 53(Supp. 1): 28–41 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ma C M, Zhu C, Zheng C G, Yin Q, Zhao Z P (2009). Climate changes in East China since the Late-glacial inferred from high-resolution mountain peat humification records. Science in China (Series D), 52(1): 118–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Madella M, Alexandre A, Ball T (2005). International code for phytolith nomenclature 1.0. Ann Bot (Lond), 96(2): 253–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mulholland S C (1989). Phytoliths shape frequencies in North Dakota grasses: a comparison to general patterns. J Archaeol Sci, 16(5): 489–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Piperno D R (1988). Phytolith Analysis, an Archaeological and Geological Perspective. San Diego: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  17. Piperno D R (2006). Phytoliths: a Comprehensive Guide to Archaeologists and Palaeoecologists. Maryland: Altamira PressGoogle Scholar
  18. Stuiver M, Reimer P J (1993). Extended 14C data base and revised CALIB 3.0 14C age calibration program. Radiocarbon, 35: 215–230Google Scholar
  19. Twiss P C (1992). Predicted World Distribution of C3 and C4 Grass Phytoliths. Phytolith Systematics: Emerging Issues. In: Rapp G Jr, Mulholland S C, eds. New York and London: Plenum Press, 13–128Google Scholar
  20. Twiss P C, Suess E, Smith R M (1969). Morphological classification of grass phytoliths. Soil Science Society of America of Proceedings, 33(1): 109–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wang W M, Liu J L, Zhou X D (2003). Climate indexes of phytoliths from Homo erectus’ cave deposits in Nanjing. Chin Sci Bull, 48(18): 2005–2009 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  22. Wang Y J, Cheng H, Edwards R L, He Y Q, Kong X G, An Z S, Wu J Y, Kelly M J, Dykoski C A, Li X D (2005). The Holocene Asian monsoon: links to solar changes and North Atlantic climate. Science, 308(5723): 854–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wang Y J, Lu H Y (1993). Phytolith Study and Its Application. Beijing: China Ocean Press (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  24. Wu J L, Shen J, Wang S M, Jin Z D, Yang X D (2004). Characteristics of an Early Holocene climate and environment from lake sediments in Aibi Region, NW China. Science in China (Series D), 47(10): 870–879Google Scholar
  25. Xie S C, Huang J H, Wang HM, Yi Y, Hu C Y, Cai Y J, Cheng H (2005). Distributions of fatty acids in a stalagmite related to palaeoclimate change at Qingjiang in Hubei, southern China. Science in China (Series D), 48(9): 1463–1469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Xie S C, Yi Y, Huang J H, Hu C Y, Cai Y Y, Collins M, Baker A (2003). Lipid distribution in a subtropical southern China stalagmite as a record of soil ecosystem response to palaeoclimate change. Quat Res, 60(3): 340–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Yang X D, Zhu Y X, Jiang X Z, Wu Y H, Wang S M (1998). Environmental changes from spore-pollen record of Mianyang region over the past 10000 years. Journal of Lake Science, 10(2): 23–29Google Scholar
  28. Yin H F, Li C A (2001). Human impact on floods and flood disasters on the Yangtze River. Geomorphology, 41(2–3): 105–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zhang Q, Gemmer M, Chen J Q (2008a). Climate changes and flood/drought risk in the Yangtze Delta, China, during the past millennium. Quat Int, 176–177: 62–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zhang P Z, Cheng H, Edwards R L, Chen F H, Wang Y C, Yang X L, Liu J, Tan M, Wang X F, Liu J H, An C L, Dai Z B, Zhou J, Zhang D Z, Jia J H, Jin L Y, Johnson K R (2008b). A test of climate, sun, and culture relationships from an 1810-year Chinese cave record. Science, 322(5903): 940–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zhang Y F, Li C A, Chen G J, Wang X P, Xiao M Y (2005). Characteristics and palaeoclimatic significance of magnetic susceptibility and stable organic carbon isotopes from a bore in Zhoulao Town, Jianghan Plain. Earth Science-Journal of China University of Geosciences, 30(1): 114–120 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  32. Zhu C, Ma C M, Yu S Y, Tang L Y, Zhang W Q, Lu X F (2010). A detailed pollen record of vegetation and climate changes in Central China during the past 16000 years. Boreas, 39(1): 69–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Zhu C, Zhang Q, Zhang Z H, Yu S Y (2002). Rise and fall of human civilization and eco-environment evolution at Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. Quaternary Sciences, 22(5): 47–55Google Scholar
  34. Zhu C, Zhong Y S, Zheng C G, Ma C M, Li L (2007). Relationship of archaeological sites distribution and environment from the Palaeolithic age to the warring states time in Hubei Province. Acta Geogr Sin, 62(3): 227–242 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  35. Zonneveld K, Ganssen G, Troelstra S, Versteegh G J M, Visscher H (1997). Mechanisms forcing abrupt fluctuations of the Indian Ocean summer monsoon during the last deglaciation. Quat Sci Rev, 16(2): 187–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yansheng Gu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hanlin Wang
    • 1
  • Xianyu Huang
    • 3
  • Hongxia Peng
    • 1
  • Junhua Huang
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Geobiology and Environmental Geology (BGEG)China University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.Hubei Key Laboratory of Wetland Evolution & Eco-Restoration (WEER)China University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina

Personalised recommendations