Articles | Volume 7, issue 2
Research article
20 Apr 2011
Research article |  | 20 Apr 2011

Terrestrial mollusc records from Xifeng and Luochuan L9 loess strata and their implications for paleoclimatic evolution in the Chinese Loess Plateau during marine Oxygen Isotope Stages 24-22

B. Wu and N. Q. Wu

Abstract. Marine Isotope Stages 24-22 is a key period of the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, however, its climate variability is still unclear. The coarse-grained loess unit L9, one of the most prominent units in the Chinese loess stratigraphy, yields a high potential terrestrial record of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental changes during this period. In this study, two high-resolution terrestrial mollusc records of L9 loess strata from the Xifeng and Luochuan sequences in the Chinese Loess Plateau were analysed. Our mollusc results show that the MIS 24, the early and late parts of MIS 22 were dominated by cold and dry climate. Relatively mild-humid climate occurred in MIS 23 and the middle part of MIS 22. The climatic conditions at Xifeng region were cooler and more unstable compared to Luochuan region. A comparison of mollusc species composition and other proxies of L9 strata (MIS 24-22) with those of L1 loess units (MIS 4-2) indicates that the L9 loess was not deposited under the most severe glacial conditions in Quaternary climate history as suggested in previous studies. Our study shows that climatic conditions in the Loess Plateau during the L9 loess forming period were similar to that of gentle glacials (MIS 24 and MIS 22) and interglacial (MIS 23), as suggested by the marine δ18O record. Three cooling fluctuations occurred at ~930 ka, 900 ka and 880 ka, which might hint to the global "900 ka cooling event". The "900-ka event" in the Loess Plateau does not seem to be a simple long glaciation, but rather several complex climatic fluctuations superposed on a general cooling trend. The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and the general cooling experienced by the Earth during this period may have resulted in abundant dust sources and increased dust transport capability, as indicated by increased grain size and the mass accumulation rate of L9 loess.