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2018-08 | Zircon geochronology of the lower Danube

We performed a detrital zircon (DZ) U-Pb geochronologic survey of the lower parts of the Danube River approaching its Danube delta, Black Sea sink, and a few large tributaries (Tisza, Jiu, Olt, and Siret) originating in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. Samples are modern sediments.

DZ age spectra reflect the geology and specifically the crustal age formation of the source area, which in this case is primarily the Romanian Carpathians and their foreland with contributions from the Balkan Mountains to the south of Danube and the East European Craton. The zircon cargo of these rivers suggests a source area that formed during the latest Proterozoic and mostly into the Cambrian and Ordovician as island arcs and back-arc basins in a Peri Gondwanan subduction setting (~600–440 Ma).

The Inner Carpathian units are dominated by a U-Pb DZ peak in the Ordovician (460–470 Ma) and little inheritance from the nearby continental masses, whereas the Outer Carpathian units and the foreland have two main peaks, one Ediacaran (570–610 Ma) and one in the earliest Permian (290–300 Ma), corresponding to granitic rocks known regionally. A prominent igneous Variscan peak (320–350 Ma) in the Danube’s and tributaries DZ zircon record is difficult to explain and points out to either an extra Carpathian source or major unknown gaps in our understanding of Carpathian geology. Younger peaks corresponding to arc magmatism during the Alpine period make up as much as about 10% of the DZ archive, consistent with the magnitude and surface exposure of Mesozoic and Cenozoic arcs.

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2018-05 | On the Holocene evolution of the Ayeyawady megadelta

The Ayeyawady delta is the last Asian megadelta whose evolution has remained essentially unexplored so far. Unlike most other deltas across the world, the Ayeyawady has not yet been affected by dam construction, providing a unique view on largely natural deltaic processes benefiting from abundant sediment loads affected by tectonics and monsoon hydroclimate.

To alleviate the information gap and provide a baseline for future work, here we provide a first model for the Holocene development of this megadelta based on drill core sediments collected in 2016 and 2017, dated with radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence, together with a reevaluation of published maps, charts and scientific literature. Altogether, these data indicate that Ayeyawady is a mud-dominated delta with tidal and wave influences. The sediment-rich Ayeyawady River built meander belt alluvial ridges with avulsive characters.

A more advanced coast in the western half of the delta (i.e., the Pathein lobe) was probably favored by the more western location of the early course of the river. Radiogenic isotopic fingerprinting of the sediment suggests that the Pathein lobe coast does not receive significant sediment from neighboring rivers. However, the eastern region of the delta (i.e., Yangon lobe) is offset inland and extends east into the mudflats of the Sittaung estuary. Wave-built beach ridge construction during the late Holocene, similar to several other deltas across the Indian monsoon domain, suggests a common climatic control on monsoonal delta morphodynamics through variability in discharge, changes in wave climate or both.

Correlation of the delta morphological and stratigraphic architecture information on land with the shelf bathymetry, as well as its tectonic, sedimentary and hydrodynamic characteristics, provides insight on the peculiar growth style of the Ayeyawady delta. The offset between the western Pathein lobe and the eastern deltaic coast appears to be driven by tectonic–hydrodynamic feedbacks as the extensionally lowered shelf block of the Gulf of Mottama amplifies tidal currents relative to the western part of the shelf. This situation probably activates a perennial shear front between the two regions that acts as a leaky energy fence.

Just as importantly, the strong currents in the Gulf of Mottama act as an offshore-directed tidal pump that helps build the deep mid-shelf Mottama clinoform with mixed sediments from the Ayeyawady, Sittaung and Thanlwin rivers. The highly energetic tidal, wind and wave regime of the northern Andaman Sea thus exports most sediment offshore despite the large load of the Ayeyawady River.

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2017-12 | Evolution of biomolecular loadings along a major river system

Understanding the transport history and fate of organic carbon (OC) within river systems is crucial in order to constrain the dynamics and significance of land–ocean interactions as a component of the global carbon cycle. Fluvial export and burial of terrestrial OC in marine sediments influences atmospheric CO2 over a range of timescales, while river-dominated sedimentary sequences can provide valuable archives of paleoenvironmental information.

While there is abundant evidence that the association of organic matter (OM) with minerals exerts an important influence on its stability as well as hydrodynamic behavior in aquatic systems, there is a paucity of information on where such associations form and how they evolve during fluvial transport. Here, we track total organic carbon (TOC) and terrestrial biomarker concentrations (plant wax-derived long-chain fatty acids (FA), branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) and lignin-derived phenols) in sediments collected along the entire course of the Danube River system in the context of sedimentological parameters.

Mineral-specific surface area-normalized biomarker and TOC concentrations show a systematic decrease from the upper to the lower Danube basin. Changes in OM loading of the available mineral phase correspond to a net decrease of 70–80% of different biomolecular components. Ranges for biomarker loadings on Danube River sediments, corresponding to 0.4–1.5 lgFA/m2 for long-chain (n-C24–32) fatty acids and 17–71 ngbrGDGT/m2 for brGDGTs, are proposed as a benchmark for comparison with other systems. We propose that normalizing TOC as well as biomarker concentrations to mineral surface area provides valuable quantitative constraints on OM dynamics and organo-mineral interactions during fluvial transport from terrigenous source to oceanic sink.

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2017-03 | Corrigendum to  "Branched GDGT signals in fluvial sediments of the Danube River basin: Method comparison and longitudinal evolution" [Organic Geochem. 103 (2017) 88–96]

In the above article, an incorrect figure (Fig. 3) was published. This issue is rectified here with the correct Fig. 3. We would like to apologize for the inconvenience.

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2017-03 | Branched GDGT signals in fluvial sediments of the Danube River basin: Method comparison and longitudinal evolution

Abundances and distributional changes of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) in fluvially influenced sediments are used in various paleoclimate studies to reconstruct variations in soil export, continental air temperature and soil pH in corresponding river basins. For accurate interpretation of these records, it is important to understand the provenance and the evolution of biomarker signals as they move through the river system.

Here we investigate the brGDGT composition of modern river sediments of the Danube River, the second largest river in Europe. BrGDGT-based mean annual air temperature and soil pH parallel the actual values of air temperature and soil pH from the upper to the lower basin, showing that signals predominantly reflect local as opposed to basin-wide environmental conditions. Furthermore, data generated using the recently developed method with improved chromatography, separating the 6-methyl-isomers from the 5-methyl-isomers, was compared with that resulting from the conventional method.

We show that the temperatures and pH values reconstructed using the data obtained by improved chromatography best resemble the local environmental conditions throughout the Danube River basin. Our results highlight the importance of in-depth studies within river systems to better understand the provenance of biomarker signals in fluvially derived sedimentary archives.

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2014-06 | Evolution of Chilia lobes of the Danube Delta

The growth of Chilia deltaic lobes reflects a drastic reorganization of the Danube delta that accompanied its rapid expansion in the late Holocene. Using new cores collected at the apices of the two older Chilia lobes, together with historical maps and satellite photos, we find that a partial avulsion since 1500 years BP led to a gradual rejuvenation of the Chilia distributary. This process led to the successive infilling of a lake and a lagoon and subsequently to the construction of an open coast lobe at the Black Sea coast.

The Chilia branch became the largest Danube distributary, reaching its maximum sediment load in the last 300 years as the southernmost St. George branch lost its previous dominance. Here, we propose that the intensive deforestation of Danube’s lower watershed leading to this delta reorganization has historical cultural causes: an increase in sheep and timber demand associated to the Ottoman Empire expansion in Eastern Europe followed by the adoption of maize agriculture as a result of the Columbian Exchange.

Rapid industrialization-driven damming during the Communist Era led to the current generalized sediment deficit for the Danube. Under these conditions, the modern Chilia lobe is rapidly remodeled by waves and may join the Sulina coast to impede navigation on the Sulina canal.

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2013-06 | Maintenance of large deltas through channelization, Nature vs Humans in the Danube Delta

Over the last half century, while the total sediment load of the Danube dramatically decreased due to dam construction on tributaries and its main stem, a grand experiment was inadvertently run in the Danube delta: the construction of a dense network of canals, which almost tripled the water discharge toward the interior of the delta plain. We use core-based and chart-based sedimentation rates and patterns to explore the delta transition from the natural to an anthropogenic regime, to understand the effects of far-field damming and near-field channelization, and to construct a conceptual model for delta development as a function sediment partition between the delta plain and the delta coastal fringe.

We show that sediment fluxes increased to the delta plain due to channelization counteracting sea level rise. In turn, the delta coastal fringe was most impacted by the Danube’s sediment load collapse. Furthermore, we suggest that morphodynamic feedbacks at the river mouth are crucial in trapping sediment near the coast and constructing wave-dominated deltas or lobes. Finally, we suggest that increased channelization that mimics and enhances natural processes may provide a simple solution for keeping other delta plains above sea level and that abandonment of wave-dominated lobes may be the most long term efficient solution for protecting the internal fluvial regions of deltas and provide new coastal growth downcoast.

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2012-08 | Early Anthropogenic Transformation of Danube - Black Sea System

Over the last century humans have altered the export of fluvial materials leading to significant changes in morphology, chemistry, and biology of the coastal ocean. Here we present sedimentary, paleoenvironmental and paleogenetic evidence to show that the Black Sea, a nearly enclosed marine basin, was affected by land use long before the changes of the Industrial Era. Although watershed hydroclimate was spatially and temporally variable over the last ,3000 years, surface salinity dropped systematically in the Black Sea.

Sediment loads delivered by Danube River, the main tributary of the Black Sea, significantly increased as land use intensified in the last two millennia, which led to a rapid expansion of its delta. Lastly, proliferation of diatoms and dinoflagellates over the last five to six centuries, when intensive deforestation occurred in Eastern Europe, points to an anthropogenic pulse of river-borne nutrients that radically transformed the food web structure in the Black Sea.

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2012-05 | Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization

The collapse of the Bronze Age Harappan, one of the earliest urban civilizations, remains an enigma. Urbanism flourished in the western region of the Indo-Gangetic Plain for approximately 600 y, but since approximately 3,900 y ago, the total settled area and settlement sizes declined, many sites were abandoned, and a significant shift in site numbers and density towards the east is recorded. We report morphologic and chronologic evidence indicating that fluvial landscapes in Harappan territory became remarkably stable during the late Holocene as aridification intensified in the region after approximately 5,000 BP. Upstream on the alluvial plain, the large Himalayan rivers in Punjab stopped incising, while downstream, sedimentation slowed on the distinctive mega-fluvial ridge, which the Indus built in Sindh. This fluvial quiescence suggests a gradual decrease in flood intensity that probably stimulated intensive agriculture initially and encouraged urbanization around 4,500 BP.

However, further decline in monsoon precipitation led to conditions adverse to both inundation- and rain-based farming. Contrary to earlier assumptions that a large glacier-fed Himalayan river, identified by some with the mythical Sarasvati, watered the Harappan heartland on the interfluve between the Indus and Ganges basins, we show that only monsoonal-fed rivers were active there during the Holocene. As the monsoon weakened, monsoonal rivers gradually dried or became seasonal, affecting habitability along their courses. Hydroclimatic stress increased the vulnerability of agricultural production supporting Harappan urbanism, leading to settlement downsizing, diversification of crops, and a drastic increase in settlements in the moister monsoon regions of the upper Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

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2008-08 | Was the Black Sea catastrophically flooded in the early Holocene?

A catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea basin was proposed to have occurred during its reconnection to the ocean in the early Holocene. Possible cultural consequences of the flood include the migration of Neolithic farmers from around the Black Sea towards central Europe as well as the creation of flood myths. Stratigraphic and paleo-geomorphologic information from Danube delta aided by radiocarbon ages on articulated mollusks constrain the level in the Black Sea before the marine reconnection to ca 30 m below the present sea level rather than 80 m or lower. If the flood occurred at all, the sea level increase and the flooded area during the reconnection were significantly smaller than previously proposed.

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2006-09 | Young Danube delta documents stable Black Sea level since the middle Holocene: Morphodynamic, paleogeographic, and archaeological implications

New radiocarbon and optical dates show that the Holocene Danube delta started to build out of a Black Sea embayment 5200 yr ago. Delta lobe development phases differ by as much as 5 k.y. from previously proposed ages. The new chronology allows for a better understanding of the Danube delta paleogeography, including the demise of Istria, the main ancient Greek-Roman city in the region.

Prior reconstructions of sea level in the Black Sea inferred fluctuations to 15 m in range; however, stratigraphy of beach ridges in the delta shows that the relative Black Sea level for the past 5 k.y. was stable in the Danube delta region within 2 m and 1.5 of the current level. Hydroisostatic effects related to a proposed catastrophic reconnection of the Black Sea to the World Ocean in the early Holocene may have been responsible for the sea level reaching the highstand earlier than estimated by models. The new sea-level data suggest that submergence at several ancient settlements around the Black Sea may be better explained by local factors such as subsidence rather than by basin-wide sea-level fluctuations.

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