Late Glacial and Holocene development of Lake Donggi Cona, north-eastern Tibetan Plateau, inferred from sedimentological analysis

Stephan Opitz*, Bernd Wünnemann, Bernhard Aichner, Elisabeth Dietze, Kai Hartmann, Ulrike Herzschuh, Janneke IJmker, Frank Lehmkuhl, Shijie Li, Steffen Mischke, Anna Plotzki, Georg Stauch, Bernhard Diekmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Sediments of Lake Donggi Cona on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau were studied to infer changes in the lacustrine depositional environment, related to climatic and non-climatic changes during the last 19. kyr. The lake today fills a 30 × 8. km big and 95. m deep tectonic basin, associated with the Kunlun Fault. The study was conducted on a sediment-core transect through the lake basin, in order to gain a complete picture of spatio-temporal environmental change. The recovered sediments are partly finely laminated and are composed of calcareous muds with variable amounts of carbonate micrite, organic matter, detrital silt and clay. On the basis of sedimentological, geochemical, and mineralogical data up to five lithological units (LU) can be distinguished that document distinct stages in the development of the lake system. The onset of the lowermost LU with lacustrine muds above basal sands indicates that lake level was at least 39. m below the present level and started to rise after 19. ka, possibly in response to regional deglaciation. At this time, the lacustrine environment was characterized by detrital sediment influx and the deposition of siliciclastic sediment. In two sediment cores, upward grain-size coarsening documents a lake-level fall after 13. cal ka BP, possibly associated with the late-glacial Younger Dryas stadial. From 11.5 to 4.3. cal ka BP, grain-size fining in sediment cores from the profundal coring sites and the onset of lacustrine deposition at a litoral core site (2. m water depth) in a recent marginal bay of Donggi Cona document lake-level rise during the early to mid-Holocene to at least modern level. In addition, high biological productivity and pronounced precipitation of carbonate micrites are consistent with warm and moist climate conditions related to an enhanced influence of summer monsoon. At 4.3. cal ka BP the lake system shifted from an aragonite- to a calcite-dominated system, indicating a change towards a fully open hydrological lake system. The younger clay-rich sediments are moreover non-laminated and lack any diagenetic sulphides, pointing to fully ventilated conditions, and the prevailing absence of lake stratification. This turning point in lake history could imply either a threshold response to insolation-forced climate cooling or a response to a non-climatic trigger, such as an erosional event or a tectonic pulse that induced a strong earthquake, which is difficult to decide from our data base.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-176
Number of pages18
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) under the Priority Programme 1372 “Tibetan Plateau (TiP): Formation–Climate–Ecosystems”, and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Potsdam . We would like to thank our colleagues for their help during the fieldwork and for the fruitful discussions. In addition, we are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their very valuable comments and suggestions.

Other keywords

  • Aragonite
  • China
  • Monsoon
  • Multi-site study
  • Paleolimnology
  • Sedimentology
  • XRD
  • XRF


Dive into the research topics of 'Late Glacial and Holocene development of Lake Donggi Cona, north-eastern Tibetan Plateau, inferred from sedimentological analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this