Lake El'gygytgyn in far northeastern Russia provides one of the few records that can improve understanding of terrestrial responses to climatic changes during the Early to Middle Pleistocene transition (EMPT; 1400–400 ka). Palynological data from MIS 38-31 (~1260 to 1060 ka) help clarify the complex nature of that transition. In contrast to the evergreen conifer forest of the MIS 31 ‘super’ interglaciation, Larix-Betula-Alnus forest with shrub tundra characterized MIS 37 and MIS 35. The Larix forest-tundra of MIS 33 represents an even cooler interglaciation. The landscapes of MIS 38, MIS 36 and early MIS 34 were a tundra mosaic with areas of Larix-forest tundra. Although marine records suggest that MIS 38 and MIS 36 were exceptionally harsh glaciations, the decrease in woody taxa (particularly Alnus and Pinus) indicate the coolest conditions at El'gygytgyn occurred during MIS 32 and late MIS 34. When combined with other palynological data from El'gygytgyn, the EMPT portion of the record indicates that Betula was important in the vegetation during both cool and warm periods prior to MIS 24. Following the build-up of global ice volumes ~900 ka, the taxon was characteristic of warm intervals only, marking the establishment of the herb-dominated tundra, which typifies the remainder of the Pleistocene glaciations. The more complex successional patterns in post-900 ka vegetation suggest greater climate variability as ice volume increased. Pinus pumila became a significant component of interglacial vegetation following the shift from a 41 ka to a quasi-100 ka orbital cycle, indicating an increase in snow cover and a lessening of aridification, at least in this part of the Arctic.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by the Russian Fund for Basic Research (Research Project No. 19‐05‐00477). Coring operations were supported by the ICDP, the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Alfred Wegener Institute and Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research. We thank Dr E.V. Bezrukova and an unnamed reviewer for their suggestions for improving the manuscript.
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