Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Research article
03 May 2013
Research article |  | 03 May 2013

Excursions to C4 vegetation recorded in the Upper Pleistocene loess of Surduk (Northern Serbia): an organic isotope geochemistry study

C. Hatté, C. Gauthier, D.-D. Rousseau, P. Antoine, M. Fuchs, F. Lagroix, S. B. Marković, O. Moine, and A. Sima

Abstract. Loess sequences have been intensively studied to characterize past glacial climates of the 40–50° north and south latitude zones. Combining different approaches of sedimentology, magnetism, geochemistry, geochronology and malacology allows the general pattern of the climate and environment of the last interglacial–glacial cycle in Eurasia and America to be characterized. Previous studies performed in Europe have highlighted the predominance (if not the sole occurrence) of C3 vegetation. The presence of C3 plants suggests a regular distribution of precipitation along the year. Therefore, even if the mean annual precipitation remained very low during the most extensive glacial times, free water was available for more than 2 months per year. Contrarily, the δ13C record of Surduk (Serbia) clearly shows the occurrence and dominance of C4 plants during at least 4 episodes of the last glacial times at 28.0–26.0 kyr cal BP, 31.4–30.0 kyr cal BP, 53.4–44.5 kyr cal BP and 86.8–66.1 kyr. The C4 plant development is interpreted as a specific atmospheric circulation pattern that induces short and dry summer conditions. As possible explanation, we propose that during "C4 episodes", the Mediterranean Sea would have been under the combined influence of the following: (i) a strong meridional circulation unfavorable to water evaporation that reduced the Mediterranean precipitation on the Balkans; and (ii) a high positive North Atlantic Western Russian (NA/WR)-like atmospheric pattern that favored northerlies over westerlies and reduced Atlantic precipitation over the Balkans. This configuration would imply very dry summers that did not allow C3 plants to grow, thus supporting C4 development. The intra-"C4 episode" periods would have occurred under less drastic oceanic and atmospheric patterns that made the influence of westerlies on the Balkans possible.