Holocene Environmental Change in the Skallingen Area, Eastern North Greenland, Based on a Lacustrine Record

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Bernd Wagner, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany and Ole Bennike, GEUS, Copenhagen, Denmark
Although lakes are known to provide excellent high-resolution records of climate and environmental change over long periods, only few records exist from the high arctic regions. For example, only very few records exist from northernmost Greenland (> 80°N). Some of the existing records are chronologically poorly constrained or cover only the latest part of the Holocene. A new lacustrine record from a small lake (80°01’N, 22°39’W) in the Skallingen area in northeastern Greenland indicates that the region was deglaciated prior to 8000 cal. a BP. Deglaciation was probably triggered by high temperatures, but it took more than 1000 years for the lake and the catchment to stabilise. Chironomids were amongst the first invertebrates to colonize the lake. The fossil chironomid assemblage is fairly rich and comparable to other records from further south in Greenland. The pioneer vegetation in the area consisted of mosses and herbaceous plants. The only woody plants recorded comprise Salix arctica and Dryas integrifolia, which appear at around 7700 cal. a BP and 6700 cal. a BP, respectively. Maximum concentrations of chironomids, maximum occurrence of ephippia of the water flea Daphnia pulex, highest organic matter contents and lowest minerogenic input from c. 7700 to 4400 cal. a BP probably reflect the Holocene thermal maximum (HTM). A maximum of Salix arctica, which is considered a warmth-loving plant, indicates that the highest temperatures during the HTM are recorded around 7000 cal. a BP. However, the occurrence of several warmth-demanding species particularly in the early Holocene sediments indicates redeposition and implies that temperatures in the past, most likely during an interglacial period, were significantly higher than during the HTM. Comparisons with Holocene records from East and North Greenland show similar immigration histories and similar trends, with the Little Ice Age as the coldest period during the Holocene culminating about 150 year ago. Subsequent warming does not indicate environmental conditions comparable to the HTM yet at this stage.