Stratigraphic and paleoclimatic studies of a 5500-Year-old moss bank on Elephant Island, Antarctica
Analyses of a core from the deepest known moss peat bank in Antarctica, on Elephant Island, South Shetlands, show that this Chorisodontium aciphyllum-dominated bank began to grow ca. 5500 14C yr BP. Combined with other studies in the region the present study indicates more extensive glaciation before 5000 to 6000 BP than today on some of the South Shetland Islands. The main hypothesis is that these frozen moss banks contain important paleoclimatic information. The stratigraphic parameters analyzed included degree of humification, organic and mineral matter content, bulk density, chronology, volumetric growth and organic accumulation rates, carbon and nitrogen concentrations, C/N ratios, nitrogen accumulation rates, and finally magnetic analyses to detect tephra horizons. A discussion of the interrelationships between these parameters is followed by theoretical calculations of annual net primary productivity combined with multivariate analysis of the data set. Results of the analysis show that three calculated productivity peaks coincide with three periods of milder and more humid summers, at 4150-3900, 3180-3030, and 2030-1840 BP. However, the period with possibly the warmest summers, 3180-3030 BP, is interpreted also to have been characterized by cold winters. The data suggest that the periods with the coldest summers (and possibly also winters) prevailed at the earliest stage of the moss bank development, at ca. 3500 BP, and 2500 BP.
Authors: Bjorck, Svante, Malmer, Nils, Hjort, Christian, Sandgren, Per, Ingolfsson, Olafur, Wallen, Bo, Smith, Ronald Ian Lewis, Jonsson, Bodil Liedberg