A sediment core (LS-1) collected from Long Lake in King George Island, South Shetland Islands (West Antarctica) was analyzed for a variety of textural, geochemical, isotopic and paleontological properties together with 14C age dates. These data combined with published records of other studies provide a detailed history of local/regional postglacial paleoproductivity variation with respect to terrestrial paleoclimate change. The lithologic contrast of a lower diamicton and an upper fine-grained sediment demonstrates glacial recession and subsequent lake formation. The upper fine-grained deposit, intercalated by mid-Holocene tephra-fallout followed by a tephra gravity flow, was formed in a lacustrine environment. Low total organic carbon (TOC) and biogenic silica (Sibio) contents with high C/N ratios characterize the diamicton, whereas an increase of TOC and Sibio contents characterize the postglacial lacustrine fine-grained sediments, which are dated at c. 4000 yrBP. More notable are the distinct TOC maxima, which may imply enhanced primary productivity during warm periods. Changes in Sibio content and δ13C values, which support the increasing paleoproductivity, are in sympathy with these organic matter variations. The uniform and low TOC contents that are decoupled by Sibio contents are attributed to the tephra gravity flows during the evolution of the lake rather than a reduced paleoproductivity. A very recent TOC maximum is also characterized by high Sibio content and δ13C values, clearly indicating increased paleoproductivity consequent upon gradual warming across King George Island . Comparable with changes in sediment geochemistry, the occurrence and abundance of several diatom species corroborate the paleoproductivity variations together with the lithologic development. However, the paleoclimatic signature in local terrestrial lake environment during the postglacial period (for example the Long Lake) seems to be less distinct, as compared to the marine environment.
One of the most significant global climatic events in the Cenozoic was the transition from greenhouse to icehouse conditions in Antarctica. Tectonic evolution of the region and gradual cooling at the end of Eocene led to the first appearance of ice sheets at the Eocene/Oligocene boundary (ca. 34 Ma). Here we report geological record of mountain glaciers that preceded major ice sheet formation in Antarctica. A terrestrial, valley-type tillite up to 65 metres thick was revealed between two basaltic lava sequences in the Eocene– Oligocene Point Thomas Formation at Hervé Cove – Breccia Crag in Admiralty Bay, King George Island, South Shetland Islands. K-Ar dating of the lavas suggests the age of the glaciation at 45–41 Ma (Middle Eocene). It is the oldest Cenozoic record of alpine glaciers in West Antarctica, providing insight into the onset of glaciation of the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.