Holocene monsoon climate documented by oxygen and carbon isotopes from lake sediments and peat bogs in China: A review and synthesis

Jiawu Zhang, Fahu Chen, Jonathan A. Holmes, Hui Li, Xiaoyan Guo, Junlan Wang, Shuang Li, Yanbin Lü, Yan Zhao, Mingrui Qiang

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183 Scopus citations


There has been much recent debate about Holocene climate variation in the monsoon region of China, especially the temporal pattern of variations in precipitation, the time-transgressive nature of the Holocene precipitation maximum, and the extent to which variations in regions influenced by the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and the East Asian Summer Monsoon (EASM) have been synchronous. We summarize and compare carbonate oxygen-isotope records (δ18Ocarb) from ten lakes within the present-day ISM region. We discuss their paleoclimate significance considering the present-day moisture source, isotopic composition of precipitation and the hydrological setting. The δ18Ocarb records are controlled mainly by the isotopic composition of lake water, which in turn is a function of regional Precipitation/Evaporation (P/E) balance and the proportion of precipitation that is monsoon-derived. We normalized the δ18Ocarb data and used these records to generate an integrated moisture index. This index, along with oxygen-isotope records from speleothems and carbon-isotope records (δ13Corg) from peats within the monsoon region, suggests that Holocene climate was broadly synchronous across the monsoon region and, within the limits of accuracy of the existing age models, provides no strong evidence for previously-proposed anti-phasing of the ISM and the EASM. Stable-isotope records from lake sediments and peat bogs have excellent potential for providing high-quality paleoclimate data for monsoon Asia, and complement high-resolution speleothem sequences, which are only found in certain localities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1973-1987
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number15-16
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NSFC projects ( 40871093 ; 41021091 ; 90502008 ). The review would not have been possible without the great efforts made by the authors of the records selected. We express our sincere appreciation to all of them. Special thanks go to Dr Steffen Mischke who provided the data from Lake Koucha and Donggi Cona and to Dr Lanlan Guo, who provided the data from Bahan Nur. We also appreciate the constructive suggestions made by referees on earlier versions of the manuscript.


  • Effective precipitation
  • Holocene
  • Lake sediments
  • Monsoon region
  • Peat bogs
  • Stable isotope

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