Benthic foraminifera and their stable isotope composition in sediment cores from Lake Qarun, Egypt : changes in water salinity during the past ~500 years

Abu-Zied, Ramadan H.; Keatings, Kevin; Flower, Roger J.; Leng, Melanie J. ORCID: 2011 Benthic foraminifera and their stable isotope composition in sediment cores from Lake Qarun, Egypt : changes in water salinity during the past ~500 years. Journal of Paleolimnology, 45 (2). 167-182.

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We studied the sedimentology, benthic foraminifera, molluscs, and δ18O and δ13C of Ammonia tepida tests in two late Holocene sediment cores from Lake Qarun (Egypt). The cores, QARU2 (upper section, 8.2 m) and QARU4 (1.4 m), span approximately the past 500 years of sedimentation. Benthic foraminifera first appeared in the upper part of QARU2 at 314 cm depth, ca. AD 1550. This depth marks the beginning of colonization of the lake by foraminifera and indicates a change in lake water salinity, as foraminifera cannot tolerate fresh water. Initially, three species of benthic foraminifera colonized the lake, Ammonia tepida, Cribroelphidium excavatum and Cribrononion incertum. Relative abundance of these species fluctuated throughout cores QARU2 and QARU4 and highest overall faunal diversity occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century. High relative abundances of C. incertum and deformed tests are attributed to periods of greater lakewater salinity. Peaks in both δ18O and δ13C indicate times of higher evaporation and reduced fresh water inflow. Inferred salinity was high around AD 1700 and after AD 1990. Rapid response of climate proxy variables indicates the high sensitivity of Lake Qarun to environmental changes over the past several 100 years. Increases in lakewater Mg concentration during past evaporative events, associated with less fresh water inflow, probably provided conditions suitable for C. incertum to build its white or transparent tests. Gradual decrease of C. incertum, until its disappearance at 100 cm depth ca. AD 1890, indicates a more persistent trend in lake water chemistry. Higher concentrations of dissolved sulphates were the likely cause of this species disappearance. Recent, twentieth-century sediments were deposited under optimal salinity (37‰) for benthic fauna, but further environmental changes are indicated by the decrease or disappearance of several benthic foraminifera and mollusc species. Intermittent hypoxia in the lake’s bottom waters, caused by cultural eutrophication, may account for these most recent changes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory
ISSN: 0921-2728
Date made live: 23 Aug 2011 09:05 +0 (UTC)

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