Holocene glacier fluctuations and environmental changes in subantarctic South Georgia inferred from a sediment record from a coastal inlet

Sonja Berg, Duanne A. White, Sandra Jivcov, Martin Melles, Melanie J. Leng, Janet Rethemeyer, Claire Allen, Bianca Perren, Ole Bennike, Finn Viehberg

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The subantarctic island of South Georgia provides terrestrial and coastal marine records of climate variability, which are crucial for the understanding of the drivers of Holocene climate changes in the subantarctic region. Here we investigate a sediment core (Co1305) from a coastal inlet on South Georgia using elemental, lipid biomarker, diatom, and stable isotope data to infer changes in environmental conditions and to constrain the timing of late-glacial and Holocene glacier fluctuations. Because of the scarcity of terrestrial macrofossils and the presence of redeposited and relict organic matter in the sediments, age control for the record was obtained by compound-specific radiocarbon dating of mostly marine-derived n-C 16 fatty acids. A basal till layer recovered in Little Jason Lagoon was likely deposited during an advance of local glaciers during the Antarctic cold reversal. After glacier retreat, an oligotrophic lake occupied the site, which transitioned to a marine inlet around 8.0±0.9 ka because of relative sea-level rise. From 7.0±0.6 to 4.0±0.4 ka, reduced vegetation coverage in the catchment, as well as high siliciclastic input and deposition of ice-rafted debris, indicates glacier advances in the terrestrial catchment and likely in the adjacent fjord. A second, less extensive period of glacier advances occurred in the late Holocene, after 1.8±0.3 ka.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-148
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


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