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Environmental Change In The Yangtze River Delta Since 12,000 Years B.P.

Kam-Biu Liu, Shuncai Sun, Xinhe Jiang

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AbstractA 52-m core from Qidong at the tip of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) delta provides a history of sea-level change, deltaic development, and vegetational and climatic changes during the last 12,000 yr. About 12,000 yr ago, when sea level was about 60 m below the present level, the coring site was situated in the innermost part of the exposed continental shelf. The late-Pleistocene vegetation on the uplands of the Lower Yangtze River valley was a mixed forest of deciduous and broadleaved evergreen trees in which Betula, Ulmus, Tsuga, and Cupressaceae were slightly more abundant than at present. Abies and Picea were probably present as relict populations on mountains bordering the region. Rapidly rising sea level converted the Qidong area to a coastal or estuarine environment between 11,000 and 10,800 yr B.P., leading to widespread development of wetlands dominated by Gramineae and Cyperaceae. During the next 2500 yr coastal erosion due to marine transgression obliterated the sedimentary record. Deltaic sedimentation predominated from 8300 to 3800 yr B.P., as the Yangtze River delta prograded by successively building a series of estuarine sand bars. During the mid-Holocene, the climate was slightly warmer and more humid than at present, allowing the subtropical broadleaved evergreen trees to increase their populations. Pinus and Quercus became more abundant after 3800 yr B.P. in response to climatic cooling. The present deltaic plain in Qidong formed less than 200 yr ago.