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

Tomonaga, Yama; Brennwald, Matthias S.; Livingstone, David M.; Kwiecien, Olga; Randlett, Marie-Ève; Stockhecke, Mona; Unwin, Katie; Anselmetti, Flavio; Beer, Jürg; Haug, Gerald H.; Schubert, Carsten J.; Sturm, Mike; Kipfer, Rolf (2017). Porewater salinity reveals past lake-level changes in Lake Van, the Earth’s largest soda lake. Scientific Reports, 7(1), p. 313. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41598-017-00371-w

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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.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Rock-Water Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Tomonaga, Yama and Anselmetti, Flavio


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Nature Publishing Group


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation ; [103] European Commission FP7




Yama Tomonaga

Date Deposited:

30 May 2017 14:47

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:04

Publisher DOI:


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