Diatom-oxygen isotope record from high-altitude Lake Petit (2200 m a.s.l.) in the Mediterranean Alps: shedding light on a climatic pulse at 4.2 ka

Cartier, Rosine; Sylvestre, Florence; Paillès, Christine; Sonzogni, Corinne; Couapel, Martine; Alexandre, Anne; Mazur, Jean-Charles; Brisset, Elodie; Miramont, Cécile; Guiter, Frédéric

In the Mediterranean area, the 4.2 ka BP event is recorded with contrasting expressions between regions. In the southern Alps, the high-altitude Lake Petit (Mercantour Massif, France; 2200 m a.s.l.) offers pollen and diatom-rich sediments covering the last 4800 years. A multi-proxy analysis recently revealed a detrital pulse around 4200 cal BP due to increasing erosion in the lake catchment. The involvement of a rapid climate change leading to increasing runoff and soil erosion was proposed. Here, in order to clarify this hypothesis, we measured the oxygen isotope composition of diatom silica frustules (δ18Odiatom) from the same sedimentary core. Diatoms were analysed by laser fluorination isotope ratio mass spectrometry after an inert gas flow dehydration. We additionally enhanced the accuracy of the age–depth model using the Bacon R package. The δ18Odiatom record allows us to identify a 500-year time lapse, from 4400 to 3900 cal BP, where δ18Odiatom reached its highest values (>31 ‰). δ18Odiatom was about 3 ‰ higher than the modern values and the shifts at 4400 and 3900 cal BP were of similar amplitude as the seasonal δ18Odiatom shifts occurring today. This period of high δ18Odiatom values can be explained by the intensification of 18O-enriched Mediterranean precipitation events feeding the lake during the ice-free season. This agrees with other records from the southern Alps suggesting runoff intensification around 4200 cal BP. Possible changes in other climatic parameters may have played a concomitant role, including a decrease in the contribution of 18O-depleted Atlantic winter precipitation to the lake water due to snow deficit. Data recording the 4.2 ka BP event in the north-western Mediterranean area are still sparse. In the Lake Petit watershed, the 4.2 ka BP event translated into a change in precipitation regime from 4400 to 3900 cal BP. This record contributes to the recent efforts to characterize and investigate the geographical extent of the 4.2 ka BP event in the Mediterranean area.

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Cartier, Rosine / Sylvestre, Florence / Paillès, Christine / et al: Diatom-oxygen isotope record from high-altitude Lake Petit (2200 m a.s.l.) in the Mediterranean Alps: shedding light on a climatic pulse at 4.2 ka. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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