Porewater salinity reveals past lake-level changes in Lake Van, the Earth's largest soda lake

Yama Tomonaga*, Matthias S. Brennwald, David M. Livingstone, Olga Kwiecien, Marie Ève Randlett, Mona Stockhecke, Katie Unwin, Flavio S. Anselmetti, Jürg Beer, Gerald H. Haug, Carsten J. Schubert, Mike Sturm, Rolf Kipfer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


In closed-basin lakes, sediment porewater salinity can potentially be used as a conservative tracer to reconstruct past fluctuations in lake level. However, until now, porewater salinity profiles did not allow quantitative estimates of past lake-level changes because, in contrast to the oceans, significant salinity changes (e.g., local concentration minima and maxima) had never been observed in lacustrine sediments. Here we show that the salinity measured in the sediment pore water of Lake Van (Turkey) allows straightforward reconstruction of two major transgressions and a major regression that occurred during the last 250 ka. We observed strong changes in the vertical salinity profiles of the pore water of the uppermost 100 m of the sediments in Lake Van. As the salinity balance of Lake Van is almost at steady-state, these salinity changes indicate major lake-level changes in the past. In line with previous studies on lake terraces and with seismic and sedimentological surveys, we identify two major transgressions of up to +105 m with respect to the current lake level at about 135 ka BP and 248 ka BP starting at the onset of the two previous interglacials (MIS5e and MIS7), and a major regression of about-200 m at about 30 ka BP during the last ice age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number313
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date22 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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