Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 241–251 | Cite as

A 16-ka δ18O record of lacustrine sugar biomarkers from the High Himalaya reflects Indian Summer Monsoon variability

  • Michael Zech
  • Mario Tuthorn
  • Roland Zech
  • Frank Schlütz
  • Wolfgang Zech
  • Bruno Glaser
Original Paper


We investigated a late glacial–Holocene lacustrine sediment archive located at 4,050 m a.s.l. in the small carbonate-free catchment of Lake Panch Pokhari, Helambu Himal, Nepal. A δ18O sugar biomarker record was established by applying novel compound-specific δ18O analysis of plant sugar biomarkers (Zech and Glaser in Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 23:3522–3532, 2009). This method overcomes analytical challenges such as extraction and purification faced by previous methods aimed at using δ18O of aquatic cellulose as a paleoclimate proxy. The δ18O results for sugar biomarkers arabinose, xylose and fucose agree well and reveal a pronounced trend towards lower δ18O values during the deglaciation and the onset of the Bølling/Allerød interstadial. By contrast, the period of the Younger Dryas is characterized by higher δ18O values. The early Holocene again reveals lower δ18O values. We suggest that our lacustrine δ18O record reflects coupled hydrological and thermal control. It is strongly related to changes in the oxygen isotopic composition of paleo-precipitation and resembles the δ18O records of Asian speleothems. With respect to the ‘amount effect,’ the record is interpreted as reflecting the Indian Summer Monsoon intensity. The precipitation signal is, however, amplified in our record by evaporative 18O enrichment that is controlled by the ratio of precipitation to evaporation. We suggest that our δ18O record reflects the variability of the Indian Summer Monsoon, which was strong during the Bølling/Allerød interstadial and early Holocene, but weak during the Younger Dryas stadial. This interpretation is corroborated by a pollen-based index for Lake Panch Pokhari that estimated the strength of the Indian Summer Monsoon versus the strength of the Westerlies. Millennial-scale synchronicity with the Greenland δ18O temperature records highlights the previously suggested strong teleconnections between the Asian Monsoon system and North Atlantic climate variability.


High Himalaya Late glacial Indian Summer Monsoon Stable oxygen isotopes Sugar biomarkers 



We thank B. Huwe, K. Kharki, S. Markovic and L. Zöller for logistic support and discussions and A. Mergner and S. Bösel for laboratory assistance. We thank three anonymous reviewers and C. Gallant for constructive reviews and valuable comments on our manuscript. We also highly appreciate the great editorial help and the proof-reading of Editor in Chief M.Brenner and Guest Editor S.Mischke. This work was partly funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG ZE 844/1-2) and the Volkswagen Foundation. M. Zech also greatly acknowledges the support given by the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Zech
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mario Tuthorn
    • 1
  • Roland Zech
    • 3
  • Frank Schlütz
    • 4
    • 5
  • Wolfgang Zech
    • 1
  • Bruno Glaser
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil Physics, Soil Science and Soil Geography, GeomorphologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Department of Terrestrial BiogeochemistryMartin Luther University of Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  3. 3.Geological InstituteETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Lower Saxony Institute for Historical Coastal ResearchWilhelmshavenGermany
  5. 5.Department of Palynology and Climate Dynamics, Albrecht-von-Haller Institute for Plant SciencesUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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