Quaternary environments and monsoonal climate off northwest Australia: Palynological evidence from Ocean Drilling Program Site 765
Stephen J. Gallagher, Barbara E. Wagstaff
Quaternary Science Reviews
The bathyal Ocean Drilling Program Site 765 at 5725 m water depth, offshore northwest Australia at 16 S is directly under the influence of the Australian monsoon during the Austral summer and is the recipient of continental dust during the Austral winter. It is downstream of the Indonesian Throughflow, which is a major arm of the global thermohaline circulation. As such it is ideally situated to record the climate and oceanic consequences of Quaternary climate variability. Despite being over
... km from northwest Australia, palynomorphs (pollen and spores) are relatively common in this section, sourced via aeolian (during the dry winter) and benthic transportation processes and sediment plumes (during the summer monsoon). Detailed palynological analyses of this flora in the upper part of this core reveals intermittent snap shots of environmental and climate change over the last 300 kyrs. Interglacial stages are interpreted to be characterised by palynomorph-rich turbidite and calcareous ooze deposition whereas palynomorph-poor slowly accumulating siliceous oozes (deposited below the Calcium Carbonate Compensation Depth) are present during glacials. The dominance of Poaceae sourced from the Australian mainland in interglacial periods suggests that vegetation during these periods was similar to today. Interglacial palynofloral assemblages suggest a more intense wet season (Australian monsoon) with higher rainfall that allowed more active erosion and deposition onto the shelf. The presence of Indonesian sourced pollen and fern spore taxa, as well as warm water dinoflagellate species suggest enhanced Leeuwin Current and monsoonal intensity during interglacials times. The youngest part of the core is dominated by siliceous ooze, likely deposited during the Last Glacial Maximum and the early Holocene. The lack of calcareous ooze near the top of the core is likely caused by Holocene to Recent erosive processes or core disturbance. The presence of common charcoal in all samples over the last 300 kyrs shows that fire was a constant feature of the landscape in northwest Australia prior to human occupation of the region 65,000 years ago.