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Title: Palaeoconductivity, lake level fluctuations and trace element history of the Aral Sea since 400 AD : assessing the impact of natural climatic variability and anthropogenic activity
Author: Austin, P. J. E.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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As part of the INTAS funded CLIMAN project into Holocene climatic variability and the evolution of human settlement in the Aral Sea basin, fossil diatoms obtained from Chernyshov Bay in the Aral Sea have been examined in order to reconstruct conductivity and lake level change since ca. 400 AD. In an effort to establish whether fluctuations in lake level are a result of natural climatic variation or human activity across the region, the values of 613C of organic material (8I3Corg) have also been determined. The extent of anthropogenic impact on the lake has also been assessed by ascertaining the history of trace metal (Cd, Pb and Hg) contamination. Palaeoconductivity has been derived using the EDDI diatom-conductivity transfer function. Results indicate a waterbody that fluctuates between fresh and oligosaline conditions which is punctuated by three phases of elevated conductivity, all within the mesosaline range and corresponding low lake levels at ca. 400 AD, ca. 1195 - 1355 AD and ca. 1780 AD to the present day. These regressions are confirmed by diatom habitat requirements, where, due to the morphology of the lake, planktonic species are indicative of regressive phases. The C/N ratio of organic material (< 10) throughout the core indicates that 8,3Corg provides a record of within lake productivity rather than switches of vegetation in the lake's catchment. The highest values are seen to correspond with high diatom inferred conductivity and low lake levels, due to increased salinity, residence time and algai productivity. This suggests that the severity of the observed lake level changes were a result of the natural diversion of the principal source of the lake's hydrological inputs, the Amu Darya river and anthropogenic activity in the form of irrigation, social upheaval and military conflict. Since 400 AD, the trace metal record from Chernyshov Bay indicates no local or long range anthropogenic contamination of Pb and Hg. Increases of Cd over the last ca. 100 years may be related to increased fertilizer application in tandem with increased cultivation in the region.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available