Holocene environmental changes in northeast Thailand as reconstructed from a tropical wetland

Barbara Wohlfarth, Wichuratree Klubseang, Suda Inthongkaew, Sherilyn C. Fritz, Maarten Blaauw, Paula J. Reimer, Akkaneewut Chabangborn, Ludvig Löwemark, Sakonvan Chawchai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Geochemical variables (TOC, C/N, TS, δ 13C) and diatom assemblages were analyzed in a lake sediment sequence from Nong (Lake) Han Kumphawapi in northeast Thailand to reconstruct regional climatic and environmental history during the Holocene. By around c. 10,000-9400calyr BP, a large shallow freshwater lake had formed in the Kumphawapi basin. Oxygenated bottom waters and a well-mixed water column were characteristic of this early lake stage, which was probably initiated by higher effective moisture and a stronger summer monsoon. Decreased run-off after c. 6700calyr BP favored increased aquatic productivity in the shallow lake. Multiple proxies indicate a marked lowering of the lake level around 5900calyr BP, the development of an extensive wetland around 5400calyr BP, and the subsequent transition to a peatland. The shift from shallow lake to wetland and later to a peatland is interpreted as a response to lower effective moisture. A hiatus at the transition from wetland to peatland suggests very low accumulation rates, which may result from very dry climatic conditions. A rise in groundwater and lake level around 3200calyr BP allowed the re-establishment of a wetland in the Kumphawapi basin. However, the sediments deposited between c. 3200 and 1600calyr BP provide evidence for at least two hiatuses at c. 2700-2500calyr BP, and at c. 1900-1600calyr BP, which would suggest surface dryness and consequently periods of low effective moisture. Around 1600calyr BP a new shallow lake became re-established in the basin. Although the underlying causes for this new lake phase remain unclear, we hypothesize that higher effective moisture was the main driving force. This shallow lake phase continued up to the present but was interrupted by higher nutrient fluxes to the lake around 1000-600calyr BP. Whether this was caused by intensified human impact in the catchment or, whether this signals a lowering of the lake level due to reduced effective moisture, needs to be corroborated by further studies in the region. The multi-proxy study of Kumphawapi's sediment core CP3A clearly shows that Kumphawapi is a sensitive archive for recording past shifts in effective moisture, and as such in the intensity of the Asian summer monsoon. Many more continental paleorecords, however, will be needed to fully understand the spatial and temporal patterns of past changes in Asian monsoon intensity and its ecosystem impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-161
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Asian monsoon
  • Environmental reconstruction
  • Geochemistry
  • Lake sediments
  • Moisture availability
  • Northeast Thailand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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