End of the last interglacial in the loess record

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  • QUATERNARY RESEARCH 2, 374-383 (1972)

    End of the Last Interglacial in the Loess Record 1


    Received July 15, 1972

    In the loess series of Central Europe the last interglacial is recorded by the para- brownearth soil accompanied by land snails and pollen of thermophilous deciduous forests. The termination of forest environment is marked by restricted eolian sedi- mentation and development of chernozemic steppe soil, followed in turn by rapid depo- sition of calcareous air-borne silt in the so called Marker horizon. Hillwash loams and loess interrupted by the weak rendzina-type soil Blf were then formed. The sequence is overlain by the interstadial soil complex which is correlated with the Barbados II Terrace because of its stratigraphic position and warmth-loving snail fauna. Through most of the section bracketed by the interglacial and interstadial soils, the sediments display the reversed declination but positive inclination. The top of the reversed interval is here informally called the Brno magnetostratigraphic horizon. It correlates reasonably well with the upper boundary of the Blake event estimated to be 108,000 yr old.

    The vertebrate and the snail faunas of chernozemic soil and of the loess together with the pedogenetic character of strata point to the harsh continental climate with the large temperature variation, dry seasons and partly, with torrential summer rains.

    If the remarkably periodic deposition of loess series has to continue, following the pattern observed through the last 350,000 yr or so, then the shift to expressed continental climate in this part of Europe is to be expected soon.


    In the neighborhood of Prague and Brno, Czechoslovakia, the richly subdivided se- quences of alternating windblown loess, hill- wash loams and different soils cover the flanks of river valleys. The climatostrati- graphic information is obtained from the changes in lithology and pedogenesis, from the land snail assemblages, pollen and verte-

    1 Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory con- tribution No. 1837.

    2 Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Geological Institute, Trojanova 13, Praha 2, Czechoslovakia. At present : Lamont-Doherty Geological Observa- tory, Palisades, N.Y. 10964.

    3 Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Geophysi- cal Institute, Bdni II, Praha-Spoiilov, Czecho- slovakia.

    brate finds. Chronostratigraphic control is achieved by radiocarbon dates and paleo- magnetic horizons (cf. Demek-Kukla, 1969 ; Kukla, 1970).

    As this part of Central Europe was never glaciated, the semicontinuous depositional records reach deep into the past. The oldest soils at Cervenf Kopec in Brno are of Jaramillo age (about 1 million YBP) and the system could have been extended up to the top of Olduvai event (about 1.7 million YBP) in neighboring Krems, Austria.

    The purpose of this article is to review shortly the basic facts about the last cycle in loesses and then to analyse in detail the interval which immediately followed the dis- appearance of interglacial deciduous forests from the area.


    Al? % f Co yri ht 0 1972 by Academic Press, Inc.

    ng ts o reproduction in any form reserved.




    In Fig. 3. the stratigraphic sequence of the last glacial cycle is plotted against the time scale. Similar sequence of strata, with few locally missing minor soils at some sites, was observed in more than 30 localities in the western half of Czechoslovakia. The principal locality where the radiometric determination and the depth plots in our diagram come from is Vestonice (location in Fig. 1, detailed description in Klima et al., 1962). The rich snail assemblages serve as sensitive indicators of vegetational and climatic changes throughout the shown in- terval. They are most completely studied in Kutna Hora (KH) and Vestonice (Loiek, 1964). The paleontologic independent check supports the paleoclimatic reconstructions obtained from soil micromorphology (Smoli- kovi, 1967, 1968a) and lithology (Kukla, 1961a). Additional climatostratigraphic cri- terion is provided by palynology. Even that the probability of redeposition of pollen grains in this type of sediments is very high, the well-expressed abundance peak of ther-

    mophilous broadleaf arboreal elements in the oldest soil of the glacial cycle demonstrates its synchroneity with the interglacial ,environ- ments (Frenzel, 1964).

    The sequence shown in Fig. 3 illustrates also the principles of the stratigraphic sub- division of the loess series.

    The Cyclic Subdivision of the Loess Series

    The striking feature of the loess series is their cyclic development. The first order Glacial cycles and second order Stadial cycles were recognized as early as 1960 and form the basis of the local lithostrati- graphic subdivisions (Kukla, 1961). Only later it was found that eight glacial cycles were completed within the Brunhes paleo- magnetic epoch (Bucha et al., 1969), same as in the deep-sea sediments (Kukla, 1970).

    The cyclic units form the frame of the lithostratigraphic subdivision of the loess se- ries. The principal boundaries and units are recognized as follows :

    Marklines : The principal lithostrati- graphic boundaries, separating the individual glacial cycles are called Marklines. They are defined as the boundaries between the


    FIG. 1. Location of sites discussed in text. Full circle : localities ModiYce (M), Sedlec (S), Chabry (CH), Kutni Hora (KH), V&tonice (V), No& Mesto (NM). Open circle : towns Praha (P), Brno (B) and Bratislava (BR). Areas of calcareous loesses dotted.

  • thick layer of the cold type windblown loess and the hillwash loam occurring closely below the level of the deciduous forest soil (Kukla : in Demek and Kukla, 1969). This boundary could be recognized even when masked by the subsequent development of decalcified forest soil (cf. Fig. 2). Mark- lines are labeled ML and numbered consecu- tively backwards with roman numerals.

    The last Markline (ML-I) in the de- scribed region is about 10,000 yr old. The dating was indirectly obtained by tracing the


    I IIIlImPm

    ? GI M - ML

    FIG. 2. Development of the soil complex in loess areas shown schematically in six subsequent stages. The major lithostratigraphic boundary, Markline, could be precisely fixed only in stages II-V. l- Windblown loess, Z-hillwash, 3-Ca-horizon on the base of decalcified soil, 4-decalcified forest soil with preserved loess fabric, 5-ditto, with hillwash fabric. In upper part of that horizon the original structure could be destroyed by clay movement, &-eolian dust with small stones (skellet of older soil), 7-biogenic soil high in humus. Stones moved to the base by the burrowing of worms and rodents. ML-Markline. In the upper horizontal band (SED.), the prevailing type of sedimentation is shown. By full dots : eolian loess ; fine dots: eolian fine dust; thick wavy line: hill- wash deposition; fine wavy line: slow hillwash deposition. In the lower horizontal band (VEG.), the inferred type of vegetation is schematically shown.

    last marks of loess deposition in l-ate Paleo- lithic Nagdalenian sites (cf. lYalocll, 1968). There is no doubt that the Narklines are the exln-ession of the same rallid environ-

    mental change at the end of a glacial, which produced the Terminations in the deep- sea sediments (Broecker and Van Donk, 1970) and that the Marklines and Termina- tions in a broad sense timely correlate.

    Sub-marklines: These are defined as boundaries between the windblown loess of any kind and the hillwash loam or soil of at least interstadial character (including brown earth and chernosem) .

    Glacial &e: This is the unit delimited defined by Marklines. Starts with hillwash sediments and soils related to the interglacial climate (similar to present conditions) and ends with the potent loess member, which contains arctic-type f rost-gley soils and cold- resistant snails of Collumella collunzella and Pupilla n4uscoYu~ group.

    Glacial cycles are labeled from the present backwards with the capital letters A to R. Present glacial cycle (first of the Holocene age) is labeled A, the last one completed is labeled B. In the intercorrelations with the systems from outside the loess region, the prefix L- should be used to distinguish the loess units from similarly labeled other strata (e.g., L-B for the last glacial cycle).

    Stadial cycle (also subcycle) : It is the unit delimited by Sub-marklines. It starts with hillwash sediments and soils related to the interstadial climate and ends with the deposition of the windblown loess related to either cold or mild climate of continentaj

    We. The stadial cycles are labeled by majus..

    cules referring to the corresponding glacial cycle and by number. Originally (Kukla, 1961) only three stadial cycles, namely Bl, B2, B3, were distinguished within the last glacial cycle B. However, it is now possible and useful to subdivide further the unit 32 into three units BZI, 322 and BZ3.


    The recognked strata: On the localities described in detail (e.g., Klima et al., 1962 ; Kukla et al., 1962) all recognized layers were designated by small letters.

    More frequently only soils are separately recognized. This is done by a symbol con- sisting of the designation of the stadial cycle with the suffixed small latin letters.

    As miscorrelations within the loess area are locally possible, the complete reference to any given soil should include a prefix which refers to the corresponding locality (cf. Kukla : in Demek and Kukla, 1969).

    The Chronostratigraphic Correlations

    The sedimentation in most of the selected sites seems to be essentially continuous, but the sedimentation rate varies greatly. Thus 1 cm of loess may have been deposited in about 20 yr and the pellet sands still faster, but in the forest soils accretion of 1 cm have taken 500 yr and more.

    The chronostratigraphic interpretation is therefore based on the 14C-dated section reaching to 30,000 YBP and the correlation of three strongly developed soil groups Blb-c; BZa-b and B2e-g with the Barbados Terraces I-III (cf. Kukla, 1970). It must be admitted, that the interpretation of the section between 30,000 and 80,000 YBP is at present highly tentative, if not hypothetical.

    The general sawtoothlike pattern of I80 cycles in deep-sea sediments (Broecker and Van Donk, 1970) which could be also clearly recognized in the fauna1 and soil development of the loess glacial cycle, as well as existing eight cyclic units within the Brunhes epoch, are strong supports of the interpretation present in Fig. 3.

    Paleoclinzatic Record of the Last Glacial Cycle

    The paleoclimatic criteria are paleopedo- logical, lithological and paleontological.

    ( 1) The B1 b soil is developed as a typical parabrownearth (1essivC). It has





    FIG. 3. General stratigraphy of the last glacial cycle in Czechoslovakia, plotted against the time scale (Kukla 1969, 1970). Diagram is based on the Viistonice (V) section (Klima et al., l%Z). Snail faunas basically from KutnL Hora (KH) and after Loiek (1964). Few minor layers, not known in V&.tonice, are shown in their correspond- ing position observed on other localities (princi- pally Chabry (CH), Mgen.5 (MS) and Nave Mesto (NM).

    Designation of glacial cycles after Kukla (1961), subdivision of Stadial cycles after this paper. Soil symbols after Kukla (1970).

    Chronological control : Full circle-deposits 14C dated on charcoal and soil humus. Open circle -indirectly correlated 14C date. Open circle with dot-infinite W date. Crossed circle-paleo- magnetic correlation with Blake event (Smith- Foster, 1969). Symbols in lithological column : l-soil of deciduous forests with clay skins (para- brownearth), Z-decalcified brownearth, 3-in- tensive chernozem (steppe soil), 4-poor in humus biogenic steppe soil, 5-hillwashed loams, bpellet sands (cf. text), 7-frost-gley soils, 8-loess, 9- marker, lO--Marklines I and II.

  • 375 KUKLA AND KOEi

    a thick brown to reddish-brown B-horizon of columnar structure with frequent clay skins. The soil of this type is forming today in loess areas only below deciduous forests. The rich snail assemblage of Hrli- cigona banatica characteristic for the decidu- ous forests and the deciduous trees pollen, accompany the B1 b soil, supporting the con- clusion on its interglacial age.

    (2) The decalcified brownearths under conifers do not show clay motion. The conif- erous forests may have been related to the formation of soil B3n.

    (3) The chernozemic steppe soils are intensively mixed and reworked by worms. They form today under the continental cli- mate, which is relatively warm but dry (cf. Southern Russia, etc.). Similar condi- tions probably existed during the formation of Blc, B2b and BZg, perhaps even shortly at the time of formation of BZj. Their char- acteristic gastropod is Chondrula t&dens.

    (4) The greenish-grey soils B3d-B3j were interpreted as frost-gley soils, indic- ative for the existence of deep frozen ground.

    (5) Loess is widely recognized as the windblown sediment of mostly local or regional origin, which forms in climates with long dry seasons in areas very sparsely vegetated by patches of grass.

    Gastropod assemblages are principally of two types. Pupilla and Collumella faunas point to cold rough continental conditions (cold loess) , whereas Helicella striata as- semblages indicate continental but not ex- tremely cold conditions (warm loess, cf. Loiek, 1964).

    (6) Pellet sands are rapidly sedimented psammites built of redeposited fragments of soil material. As has been demonstrated by recent observations (Kukla-Loiek, 1961)) the pellet sands today are laid down during torrential rains coming after a period of relatively hot dry weather. The redeposition is so fast, that the hardened particles cannot

    soften during the transport. The large area> stripped of vegetation must he present. blown dust, mostly calcareous, separating the

    (7) d1arhev is the thin bed of wind- decalcified humous soils from pellet sands Because of its tine granulation. sharp bound aries. calcareous content and stratigraphil position, it is interpreted as the far trans ported deposit of dust storms (Iiukla 1961a).


    The typical sequence of soils and sediments in the subcycle Bl is demonstrated in Fig. 4 showing the section in Modfice.


    The section is located in the abandoned front of the excavation above the second extraction floor in the XE segment of the active brickyard ModPice, some 200 m west of the main road Brno-Bratislava, 5 km south of town Brno. The scale shown in Fig. 4 starts at the second extraction floor (at about 200 m above the sea level),

    The lithologic description of the strata is given in an appendix to Fig. 4. In Modi-ice is one of the well-developed sequences. Practically all important strata shown in Fig. 3 with exception of soil B3e and the upper Marker are here present (cf. with neighboring section Modiice II described in Kukla and Loiek. 1961).

    Paleomugnetic Investigation

    The section was sampled for paleomag- netic investigation in S-cm intervals (samples l-40). Closer sampling was performed on the interglacial soil Blb and in the under- lying loess (samples S(r90). These latter samples were taken about 100 m toward the west for technical reasons. The continuity of soil Blb between both sites was visible in the front of the excavation.

    The samples of loess were found to have


    the NRM (natural remanent magnetization) close to about I, = 28.10- e.m.u. samples of soil Blb showed I, = 20.1kG e.m.u.

    The a/f demagnetization was performed by the rotation of samples around three perpendicular axes in the field of 200 Oe for 30 sec. About two-thirds of NRM was removed. The demagnetization curves for samples 13 and 17 are shown in Figs. 5 and 6, corresponding plots of D and I in Fig. 7.

    Samples were measured on the spinner magnetometer with a sensitivity of l.lOds e.m.u.

    The results plotted in Fig. 4 show the change of declination by about 160 com- pleted between samples 13 and 17. Reversed declination continues downward with one interruption almost to the base of the meas- ured interval. No substantial and consistent change in inclination was observed.

    No special investigation of mineralogic composition of sampled sediments was per- formed.

    The results are interpreted as demon- strating the local fossil record of the dis- turbance of Earths magnetic field, described in deep-sea sediments as the Blake event (Smith and Foster, 1969). This correlation is based on the general stratigraphic position of the reversed interval in the relative close of Termination II alias Markline II, and the estimated duration of reversed interval, both in the deep-sea sediments and in the loess series on the order of about 5000 yr. We did plot in Fig. 4 Smiths and Fosters age estimates for the upper and lower boundary of the Blake event. The timing is only tentative because of two reasons: ( 1) the anomalous age claimed by Smith and Foster for the top of the -x-zone in their cores and (2) for the geographically restricted recognition of this reversed in- terval in the deep-sea floor.

    We must, however, admit that the timing fits very well into the stratigraphic frame

    based on independent correlation of Blb soil with Barbados III Terrace and BZa soil with Barbados II Terrace.

    Brno Magnetostratigraphic Horizon

    For correlation purposes, the level of deposition of sample 15 (Fig. 4), halfway at the transition from negative to positive declination, is called here Brno nzagneto- horizon. It occurs within the period of dry, relatively cold continental climate between the end of the last interglacial and the start of the next major interstadial. Its coriela- tion with the upper boundary of the Blake event is highly probable.

    Paleoclimatic In$dications of the Subcycle Bl

    The following conclusions could be d -awn from the Modrice section :

    (1) Major change in the local environ- ments occurred at the level where Blc steppe soil started to develop over the Bib forest soil. Calcareous dust must have bee11 de- posited over the top of the forest s)il at that time (compare horizon 6, Fig, 4). Gleying and mechanical disturbance cf the forest soil, previous to development c f the Blc steppe soil was revealed by micro- morphological studies of Smolikova (1968a, 1968b).

    Retreat of the forest could have been time transgressive, however in most of the places where Marker is found, the develop- ment of chernozem Blc points to its similar duration on the order of l-2 millenia. This estimate is based on its visual comparison with Holocene chernozemic soils, archeologi- tally dated.

    At least in Modiice, the change from forest to steppe occurred before the start of the paleomagnetic event correlated with Blake.

    If the correlation and the estimated timing of the Blake event are correct, then the shift in Modtice occurred before 115,000

  • .3NMOtlBVt(Vd I


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    YBP, probably between 115,000 and 116,000 cated by pellet sands, occurred on the order y. a. (cf. next point). of l-2 millenia later than the disappearance

    (2) The deposition of Marker and of forest, but still at the time of normal the start of badland development under the polarity (i.e., before approx. 114,000 YBP). largely restricted vegetational cover, as indi- This conclusion is based on the observation

    FIG. 4. Section in the Modiice brickyard showing the paleomagnetic stratigraphy of the soils and sediments of the last interglacial and of the next cold interval.

    The estimated possible duration of individual layers is based mostly on the comparisons with Holo- cene soils archeologically dated, on sedimentation speeds of the different loess types as found in radiometrically dated VGstonice section, and on the recent observations of the hillwash deposition (Kukla-Loiek, 1961). Soil symbols same as in Fig. 3 (cf. text). Lithology of layers I-22 described below. The tentative timing of the paleomagnetic event is based on the correlation with the Signs + and - stand for normal polarity. Blake event of Smith and Foster (1969).

    In the loess curve the individual layers are ordered from left to right after their supposed oc- currence in the transition from the continental to the maritime climates (more detail in Kukla, 1970). Lithologic description of the strata :

    l-Yellowish-brown calcareous loess with dense impregnation of secondary carbonate along the root holes.

    2-Whitish-yellow Ca-horizon of the overlying decalcified soil 3-Rusty brown decalcified base of parabrownearth with preserved fabric of autochthonous loess.

    Rare vertical fissures coated with braunlehmplasma (clay). 4-Reddish-brown B-horizon of well-lessivated parabrownearth with columnar structure and clay

    coatings. Original loess fabric preserved inside the columns. S-Reddish-brown B-horizon of parabrownearth, aas in layer 4, but with the horizontal streaks of

    coarse sand. Probably weathered zone of hillwash sediments. 6-Reddish-brown loam, structureless, calcareous spots and small corroded concretions of secondary

    carbonate. Ca-horizon of overlying chernozem developed at the top of parabrownearth. 7-Dark brown-blackish, high in humus chernozem, secondarily decalcified. S-Light grey-brown, in places primarily calcareous fine grained silt without the typical grass-root

    fabric of loess, locally with platty carbonate concretions. Marker. Sharp lower boundary, signs of redeposition by running water on slopes toward the upper boundary.

    g--Dark brown pellet sands. Grain size around 1 mm. Interlayers of light brown eolian dust, possibly redeposited, similar to marker, at the base. Slightly calcareous.

    lo--Reddish-brown pellet sands, mostly of reworked B-horizon corresponding to layers 4 and 5. Cal- careous.

    11-Light brown pellet sands and subhorizontally banded loams, calcareous. %-Discontinuous horizon of large carbonate concretions in the highly calcareous loam, mostly with

    the hillwash structure. 13-Light grey-yellowish loess, impregnated by secondary carbonate, numerous dark brown krotowinas

    penetrating downward. !ABrown humous biogenic soil, intensively reworked by worms, moderate content of humus. U-Light grey-yellowish loess with horizon of large carbonate concretions; some are platty. Streaks

    of light pellet sands. E-Light grey-yellowish loess as above, but at least three interlayers of dark grey color, higher in

    humus. Possibly initial soils. 17-Light grey loess, few interlayers of pellet sands. l&Dark grey, probably moderately high in humus, initial soil or hillwash interlayer. Intensively Ca-

    impregnated horizon at the base suggests dependence on soil formation. 19-Light whitish-grey Ca-horizon of the above lying soils. 20-Rusty brown, slightly recalcified B-horizon of brownearth. No signs of the clay redeposition. In

    the upper part spots of humus soil from above: dotty texture originated by burrowing worms. 21-Dark brown decalcified chernozem with subvertical corroded carbonate concretions. Z-Light grey, calcareous fine grained loam, probably of eolian origin. Transitional upper boundary.

  • 0 50 75 100 125 150 200 250 300 Oe i 50 75 100 725 150 200 250 300 De

    FIG. 5. Demagnetization curve of the sample 13. FIG. 6. Demagnetization curve of the sample 17.

    that the biologically mixed soils such as tion of Blf soil, as indicated by the presence chernozems tend to indicate the polarity of of Papilla lo&ca and Coelodonta anti- the time when their development stopped. quifatis (wooly rhinoceros) at this level in

    (3) The maximal deterioration of cli- Chabry (cf, Fig. 1 for location). The mate probably occurred before the forma- correlation of Blf soil with the Roedeback

    I I








    200 300


    I I / I , JE

    1 100

    FIG. 7. Declination and inclination plots in the individual stages of demagnetization of samples 13 (=a) and 17 (=b) Recent D and I on the site marked by open circle with cross.


    interstadial is highly probable (Demek and Kukla, 1969).

    At present, on the sites undisturbed by man the mature Holocene parabrownearth still continues in development.

    If the periodic pattern of the loess series has to continue, then the natural shift to- ward the greater continentality is the first event to come. If furthermore the Holo- cene warm interval will not last longer than the last interglacial, then the expected shift is due very soon.


    This report was made possible by NSF Grant GX-28671-K. Careful reading of the article by N. D. Opdyke and C. D. Ninkovitch is appreciated.


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