Articles | Volume 11, issue 11
Research article
02 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 02 Nov 2015

Abrupt climate and vegetation variability of eastern Anatolia during the last glacial

N. Pickarski, O. Kwiecien, D. Langgut, and T. Litt

Abstract. Detailed analyses of the Lake Van pollen, Ca / K ratio, and stable oxygen isotope record allow the identification of millennial-scale vegetation and environmental changes in eastern Anatolia throughout the last glacial (~ 111.5–11.7 ka BP). The climate of the last glacial was cold and dry, indicated by low arboreal pollen (AP) levels. The driest and coldest period corresponds to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 (~ 28–14.5 ka BP), which was dominated by highest values of xerophytic steppe vegetation.

Our high-resolution multi-proxy record shows rapid expansions and contractions of tree populations that reflect variability in temperature and moisture availability. These rapid vegetation and environmental changes can be related to the stadial-interstadial pattern of Dansgaard–Oeschger (DO) events as recorded in the Greenland ice cores. Periods of reduced moisture availability were characterized by enhanced occurrence of xerophytic species and high terrigenous input from the Lake Van catchment area. Furthermore, the comparison with the marine realm reveals that the complex atmosphere–ocean interaction can be explained by the strength and position of the westerlies, which are responsible for the supply of humidity in eastern Anatolia. Influenced by the diverse topography of the Lake Van catchment, more pronounced DO interstadials (e.g., DO 19, 17–16, 14, 12 and 8) show the strongest expansion of temperate species within the last glacial. However, Heinrich events (HE), characterized by highest concentrations of ice-rafted debris (IRD) in marine sediments, cannot be separated from other DO stadials based on the vegetation composition in eastern Anatolia. In addition, this work is a first attempt to establish a continuous microscopic charcoal record for the last glacial in the Near East. It documents an immediate response to millennial-scale climate and environmental variability and enables us to shed light on the history of fire activity during the last glacial.