Reconstructing Holocene East Asian climate and oceanographic history of the northern South China Sea: high-resolution records of pollen, spores, and dinoflagellate cysts




Li, Zhen

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This study contributes to developing terrestrial and marine palynological indicators of winter or summer monsoon signals as well as oceanographic environments of the South China Sea (SCS). The high-resolution reconstructions of Holocene East Asian Monsoon (EAM) climate and oceanographic condition of the northern SCS provide insights into regional climate events in the western low-latitude Pacific Ocean and their impacts on local oceanography and ecology. Sediment trap samples from the southwest Taiwan waters of the SCS in winter monsoon (March-April) and summer monsoon (July-August) seasons identify abundances of Pinus and Ulmus pollen as indicators of the winter monsoon whereas fern spores appeared to be indicators of the summer monsoon. The increased fluxes of dinoflagellate cyst (DC) taxa during summer are correlated with decreased sea-surface salinity (SSS) associated with nutrient-rich river inputs. DC distributions across the SCS show that some taxa are good indicators of changes in sea-surface temperature (SST), SSS, water depth and chlorophyll-a (chl-a) concentrations associated with EAM and oceanographic conditions. In particular, the concenrations of Brigantedinium spp. and cysts of Protoperidinium together with Echinidinium spp. are positively correlatd with SST in January and SST in July, and chl-a concentrations, respectively, which are linked to past monsoon strength and primary productivity. In total, four high cyst concentration regions have been observed off southern Vietnam, Borneo, Hainan, and South China. High-resolution palynological records from a sediment core in the northern SCS reflect several EAM climatic and oceanographic events over the last 12.5 kyr. A short-term Impagidinium decrease implied that the Taiwan Strait opened at ~11.7–11.0 cal kyr BP, with reduced Kuroshio Current influence when the East China Sea waters entered through the strait. Three Holocene relative sea-level stages were identified in the palynomorph records. The highest herb pollen abundances were observed before ~10.4 cal kyr BP, reflecting the shortest distance from the grassland sources on the exposed shelf at the low sea-level stand. High Brigantedinium and cysts of Protoperidinium abundances also indicate a near-shore environment. During ~10.4- ~6.8-6.0 cal kyr BP at the rising sea-level stage, fern spore abundances increased and DC abundances decreased. Consistently low total DC concentrations and high fern spore abundance were observed after ~6.8-6.0 cal kyr BP when the present oceanographic conditions were formed. Increased abundances of Pinus pollen reflected three strengthened winter monsoon intervals at ~5.5, 4.0 and 2.5 cal kyr BP under the present oceanographic conditions. The highest Dapsilidinium pastielsii abundances reflected the warmest interval at ~6.8-5.5 cal kyr BP of the northern SCS.



Holocene climate, South China Sea, Palynology, Dinoflagellate cysts, Sea-level change, Oceanography, East Asian Monsoon, Primary productivity