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Tephrostratigraphy and paleo-environmental implications of Late Quaternary sediments and interstitial water in the western Ulleung Basin, East/Japan Sea

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Two piston cores, collected from the western Ulleung Basin of the East/Japan Sea, were used to investigate the Late Quaternary tephrostratigraphy, lithology, and mineralogy of the sediments, as well as the elemental composition of both sediments and interstitial water, and their paleo-environmental implications. The cores show two lapilli tephra layers and one rhyolitic ash layer at the boundaries between sedimentary lithofacies units I, II, and III. These layers can be correlated with the well-known Ulleung-Oki (ca. 9.3 ka, boundary of units I/II), Ulleung-Yamato (ca. 25–33 ka), and Aira-Tanzawa (ca. 25.1 ka, boundary of units II/III) layers, respectively. These data suggest that the cores cover the period from the middle stage of marine isotope stage (MIS) 3 to the Holocene. In each core, a so-called dark laminated mud (DLM) layer in unit II commonly has high contents of Si and Al, suggesting that the DLM layer generally contains significant amounts of fine-grained silicates and/or aluminosilicates. In addition, these DLM layers are enriched in Fe relative to Mn, iron being predominantly bound in framboidal pyrite. The size distribution of pyrite in the DLM layers suggests that these have formed under anoxic (euxinic) conditions at times of reduced water circulation in the basin during sea-level lowstand (euxinic environment). The C/N ratios [5–12] suggest that sedimentary organic matter in the cores is predominantly of marine origin. Total organic carbon (TOC) contents increased shortly before Termination I. This could have been caused by an increased flux of marine organic matter in association with sea-level rise. The C and S values of units II and III (Late Pleistocene sediments, C: <2.0%, S: 0.5–2.1%) suggest a more euxinic environment than that of unit I (Holocene sediments, C: 1.0–3.5%, S: <1.0%). Concentrations of SO42– in the interstitial water decrease with increasing burial depth, whereas CH4 concentrations show the reverse trend. Therefore, it seems that sulfate reduction, probably related to microbial activity, predominates in the upper core sections (<5 m), shifting to methanogenesis in the lower core sections.

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