Freshwater lakes in Antarctica fluctuate from ice-free state (during austral summer) to ice-cover state (during austral winter). Hence the lakes respond instantly to the seasonal climate of the region. The Antarctic seasons respond sharply to the glacial and interglacial climates and these signatures are archived in the lake sediments. A sediment core from Sandy Lake, a periglacial lake located in Schirmacher Oasis of East Antarctica records distinct changes in grain-size, C, N, C/N ratios (atomic), δ13COM and δ15NOM contents during the last 36 ky. The contents of the sedimentary organic matter (OM) proxies (Corg ~ 0.3 ± 0.2%, C/N ratios ~9 ± 5 and δ13COM ~−18 ± 6‰) indicate that the OM in this lake sediment is a product of mixing of terrestrial and lacustrine biomass. Distinctly lower contents of Corg (~0.2%) and sand (~50%), low C/N ratios (~8) and depleted δ13COM (~−20‰) during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM: 32–17 ky BP based on Vostok Temperatures) suggest greater internal (autochthonous) provenance of organic matter and limited terrestrial (allochthonous) inputs probably due to long and intense winters in the Antarctic. Such intense winters might have resulted the lake surface to be ice-covered for most part of the year when the temperatures remained consistently colder than the Holocene temperatures. The denitrification within the lake evident by enriched δ15NOM (>10‰) during Antarctic LGM might have resulted from oxygen-limitation within the lake environment caused by insulated lake surface. The gradual increases in δ13COM, C/N and sand content starting at ~11 ky BP and attaining high values (~−11‰, ~10 and ~80% respectively) at ~6 ky BP together suggest a subtle change in the balance of sources of organic matter between algal and macrophyte/bryophyte nearly 8–9 ky later to the beginning of the deglaciation. Thus the seasonal opening-up of the Sandy Lake similar to the modern pattern started with the establishment of the optimum temperature conditions (i.e., 0 °C anomaly) in the Antarctic, prior to which the lake environment might have remained mostly insulated or closed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Aquatic Science
- Earth-Surface Processes