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Environmental history of the Prydz Bay region during the late Quaternary, reconstructed by a multidisciplinary study of lake, fjord and continental shelf sediments

Duration: 1/2007 to 1/2010

Funding: DFG (German Research Foundation, SPP1158)

Aim of project is to gain a better understanding of the late Quaternary environmental and climate history of the Prydz Bay region and the following key questions were addressed:

  1. Paleoclimatology: Which changes in temperature and precipitation are documented in Rauer Group and how did these changes interact with the glacial history?
  2. Paleoglaciology: How did the East Antarctic Ice Sheet evolve through time (advances, retreats) and what are the reasons therefore?
  3. Sea-level history: Which changes in the relative sea level have occurred in Rauer Group, and what are the implications for the glacial history?
  4. Comparison: Can the regional differences in the climatic and environmental history within the Prydz Bay region and in other East Antarctic coastal regions, as indicated in past work, be confirmed and, if so, what are their reasons?

Our work focuses on marine sediment records from coastal marine inlets, since those contain complete and undisturbed records of the Holocene period.

A multi-proxy approach was chosen to investigate the sediment records. Analytical methods include for example high-resolution semi-quantitative elemental scans (ITRAX XRF core scanner) and determination of absolute elemental concentrations, total organic carbon (TOC), sulphur and biogenic silica contents. Diatom species composition and oxygen isotopes in diatom silica have been analysed in collaboration with H. Cremer (TNO, The Netherlands) and M.J. Leng (NERC, UK), respectively.

The results of this project have substantially improved the present knowledge of the glacial and environmental history of coastal East Antarctica. It provided the first reconstruction of the glacial history since the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3 for the ice-free islands of Rauer Group. The findings show similarities as well as discrepancies to the postglacial climate histories of other ice-free coastal areas of Antarctica, thus contributing to a circum-Antarctic network of climate records that will eventually allow to better differentiate between local, regional, and global impact on the climate histories.


  • Berg, S., White, D.A., Bennie, O., Fülöp, R., Fink, D., Wagner, B. and Melles, M. 2016. Unglaciated areas in East Antarctica during the Last Glacial (Marine Isotope Stage 3)–New evidence from Rauer Group. Quaternary Science Reviews 1531-10
  • Bentley, M., and 87 others. 2014. A community-based geological reconstruction of Antarctic Ice Sheet deglaciation since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews, 100, 1-9
  • Mackintosh, N., Verleyen, N., O’Brien, P., White, D., Jones, S., McKay, R. Dunbar, R., Gore, D., Fink, D., Post, A., Miura, H., Leventer, A., Goodwin, I., Lilly, K., Crosta, X., Golledge, N., Wagner, B., Berg, S., Ommen, T., Zwartz, D., Hodgson, D., Roberts, S., Vyverman, W., Masse, G., 2014. Retreat history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 100, 10-30
  • Berg, S., Wagner, B., Cremer, H., Leng, M.J., Melles, M. 2010a. Late Quaternary environmental and climate history of Rauer Group, East Antarctica. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 297, 201-213
  • Berg, S., Wagner, B., White, D., Melles, M. 2010b. No significant ice-sheet expansion beyond present ice margins during the last 4500 years at Rauer Group, East Antarctica. Quaternary Research 74, 23-25
  • White, D.A., Bennike, O., Berg, S., Harley, S.L., Fink, D., Kiernan, K., McConnell, A., Wagner, B. 2009. Geomorphology and glacial history of Rauer Group, East Antarctica. Quaternary Research 72, 80-90