Late Quaternary paleoenvironmental records from the western Lena Delta, Arctic Siberia

TitleLate Quaternary paleoenvironmental records from the western Lena Delta, Arctic Siberia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSchirrmeister, L, Grosse, G, Schnelle, M, Fuchs, M, Krbetschek, M, Ulrich, M, Kunitsky, V, Grigoriev, M, Andreev, A, Kienast, F, Meyer, H, Babiy, O, Klimova, I, Bobrov, A, Wetterich, S, Schwamborn, G
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
KeywordsCryolithology, Geochronology, Laptev Sea shelf, Paleoecology, paleogeography, Periglacial, Permafrost, Western Beringia

The three main Lena Delta terraces were formed during different stages of the late Quaternary. While only the first floodplain terrace is connected with active deltaic processes, the second and third terraces, which dominate the western part of the delta, are erosional remnants of arctic paleolandscapes affected by periglacial processes. The landscape dynamics of the second and the third terraces, and their relationship to each other, are of particular importance in any effort to elucidate the late Quaternary paleoenvironment of western Beringia. Multidisciplinary studies of permafrost deposits on the second terrace were carried out at several sites of the Arga Complex, named after the largest delta island, Arga-Muora-Sise. The frozen sediments predominantly consist of fluvial sands several tens of meters thick, radiocarbon-dated from > 52 to 16 kyr BP. These sands were deposited under changing fluvial conditions in a dynamic system of shifting river channels, and have been additionally modified by synsedimentary and postsedimentary cryogenesis. Later thermokarst processes affected this late Pleistocene fluvial landscape during the Lateglacial and the Holocene. In addition, eolian activity reworked the fluvial sands on exposed surfaces at least since the Lateglacial, resulting in dune formation in some areas. Contrary to the Arga Complex, the third terrace is mainly composed of polygenetic alluvial and proluvial ice-rich permafrost sequences (Ice Complex deposits) radiocarbon-dated from 50 to 17 kyr BP which cover older fluvial sand units luminescence-dated to about 100-50 kyr BP. Paleoecological records reflect tundra-steppe conditions that varied locally, depending on landscape dynamics, during the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 4 and 3 periods, and a persistent change to shrub and arctic tundra during Lateglacial and Holocene periods. The study results indicate a continuous fluvial sedimentation environment for the Laptev Sea shelf in the region of the second Lena Delta terrace during the late Pleistocene, and confirm the presence of a dynamic channel system of the paleo-Lena River that flowed at the same time as the nearby subaerial Ice Complex deposits were being formed.