Climate of the Arabian Peninsula is intimately tied to the climate systems of the North Atlantic/Siberian pressure system and the African/Asian Monsoon. It is thus ideally situated to study how and to what extent both systems were dynamically linked in the past. The area is also of great value for understanding the migration of Homo sapiens “out of Africa”. Regardless the key position of Saudi Arabia, surprisingly few attempts have been made to reconstruct past environmental conditions in this region. There is clear geological evidence that intervals of increased precipitation led to a profound change in the climatic and environmental conditions during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. Until now, however, the exact timing and detailed environmental characteristics of these pluvial episodes, especially for pre-Holocene times, have remained poorly constrained.
This research proposal aims to investigate ancient lake deposits of Saudi Arabia as archives of past environmental conditions. An important objective of this project regards the presently controversial ages of the lake deposits that will be investigated using a combination of different dating methods (radiocarbon, optically stimulated luminescence, Uranium series). Furthermore, we will provide a detailed reconstruction of environmental conditions during lake formation using various biological (ichno fossils, pollen, phytoliths, ostracods, charophytes, molluscs) and geochemical (stable isotopes, elements analyses) climate proxies. So far, such a multi-proxy approach has not yet been conducted in Saudi Arabia.
The applicants have established close contact with the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) that will provide the logistical support for fieldwork in 2008 and the following two years. During a reconnaissance trip organised by SGS the suitability of the sedimentary archive has been checked by our team. Considering the limited accessibility of the region, the need for official permits and the logistical support by SGS, this collaboration represents a unique chance to carry out palaeoclimate research in this important area. Altogether, we are expecting to significantly improve the knowledge about the palaeo-environmental history of Saudi Arabia. Such data are crucial in the context of palaeoclimate research and human evolution, especially considering the key location of the area between different climate systems and in the context of past human migration routes.