Climate and anthropogenic controls on the carbon cycle of Xingyun Lake, China

Aubrey L. Hillman, Mark B. Abbott, Jun Qing Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The organic and inorganic carbon cycles in lakes are responsive to both natural climate variability and human-induced environmental changes. Here we present an 8600-year sediment record from Xingyun Lake in Yunnan, China that provides insight into carbon cycling and lake primary productivity using stable isotope measurements of organic carbon and nitrogen, carbon to nitrogen ratio, inorganic carbon isotopes, and mass accumulation rates of carbon, nitrogen, and calcite. The early to middle Holocene is characterized by relative stability in most proxies although some variation in organic carbon isotopes reflects fluctuating terrestrial organic matter inputs. The middle to late Holocene, from 5300 to 3300 years BP, is marked by amplified variability in nearly all proxies and suggests either increased C4 vegetation or increased primary productivity. These changes are coincident with declining lake levels and increased aridity throughout the Indian Summer Monsoon region. After 3300 years BP, the greatest variability is in nitrogen isotopes and coincides closely with human settlement in the region. These changes are accompanied by further indications of increased primary productivity, suggesting eutrophic lake conditions. While we cannot definitively link human activity to these changes, the balance of evidence suggests that other mechanisms are unlikely. This study supports previous work that anthropogenic activities began measurably impacting the landscape in southwestern China within the last few millennia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-81
Number of pages12
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - Jul 15 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Aubrey Hillman recognizes the support of the Byrd Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship during the preparation of this manuscript. JQY acknowledges the support from National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41471013 ). We thank Lonnie Thompson, David Pompeani, Matt Finkenbinder, Bruce Finney, Emily Elliott, Daniel Bain, and Alice Yao for useful feedback and discussion. We thank Katie Redling and David Dettman for the analysis of stable isotopes and ChunLiang Gao and Jordan Abbott for assistance with fieldwork. We thank one anonymous reviewer and Phil Meyers for their very helpful suggestions and feedback.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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