Christos Katrantsiotis
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography.

Abstract

This thesis presents multiproxy reconstructions of the mid to late Holocene climate and environmental changes in the Peloponnese peninsula, SW Greece. The combined dataset consists of diatom, biomarker and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) elemental data in radiocarbon-dated sediment cores taken from the Agios Floros fen and the Gialova Lagoon in SW Peloponnese and the Ancient Lake Lerna in NE Peloponnese. Overall, the results highlight the complex interaction between climate, tectonics and human activities in the landscape development and further reveal changes in the W-E precipitation/temperature gradient over the peninsula connected to shifts in the large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns.

The Agios Floros study provides a 6000-year hydrological record based on diatoms and hydrogen isotopic (δD) analysis of aquatic plant-derived n-C23 alkanes. The records indicate two decadal-long periods of deep water conditions at ca 5700 and 5300 cal BP, largely attributed to local tectonic processes and the hydrological anomalies of the nearby karst springs. A period of intermediate water level at ca 4600 cal BP is dominated by the new fossil species Cyclotella paradistinguenda described in this thesis. The gradual development of a fen at ca 4500 cal BP is attributed to a combination of human activities and drier conditions, the latter culminating in SW Peloponnese mainly after ca 4100 cal BP. From ca 2800 cal BP and onwards, there is evidence for flooding events probably related to marked rainfall seasonality.

The n-alkane δD profiles and XRF data analyzed in the Gialova core co-vary with each other indicating a common climate signal during the last 3600 years, which resembles the Agios Floros record. The n-alkane δ13C values show high contribution of aquatic vegetation to sedimentary organic matter during wet/cold periods. The n-alkane δD signals from the Lake Lerna also exhibit a similar pattern to each other providing further evidence for precipitation/temperature changes over the last 5000 years.

Comparison of the δD records reveals sometimes similar and sometimes opposing signals between NE and SW Peloponnese, which can be attributed to the relative dominance of high latitude and low latitude atmospheric patterns over the peninsula. The records show wet conditions at ca 5000-4600 cal BP likely associated with the weakening of the Hadley circulation. High humidity is also evident at ca 4500-4100, ca 3000-2600 (more unstable in SW) and after ca 700 cal BP with drier conditions at ca 4100-3900 and ca 1000-700 cal BP. These periods correspond to regional climate changes, when the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) likely exerted the main control with NAO (+) creating conditions of reduced moisture. A NE-SW climate see-saw with drier conditions in NE Peloponnese is evident at ca 4600-4500, ca 3200, ca 2600-1800 and ca 1200-1000 cal BP and a reversal at ca 3900-3300 ca 3200-3000 and ca 1800-1300 cal BP. The dipole pattern is likely driven by shifts in the North Sea–Caspian Atmospheric pattern (NCP), with NCP (+) leading to wetter and colder conditions in NE Peloponnese. The opposing signal can also be explained by changes in summer temperatures driven by the Asian monsoon intensity. Strong monsoonal periods coincide with cool summers in Lerna, due to the northerly winds (Etesians), in contrast to SW Peloponnese, located on the lee side of the mountain and most affected by the large-scale air subsidence.

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