MYRTOON Climate Dynamics and Environmental Change in the Aegean Sea during the Holocene

Scientific Discipline: Climate dynamics

Work Area: Eastern Mediterranean, SW Aegean Sea, Myrtoon Basin

Research Vessel: RV Aegaeo

PI Name and Affiliation: Dr Andreas Koutsodendris, Heidelberg University

Date: 30th September - 9th October 2021

Abstract & Main objectives: Throughout the Holocene, Mediterranean civilizations have closely interacted with their environment, but it is still unclear to what extent climatic and environmental changes have influenced their evolution. At the same time, the impact of tectonic forcing via earthquakes and tsunamis on early civilizations has remained poorly constrained. This hold particularly true for the Aegean Sea region, which is characterized by (i) significant neotectonic activity; (ii) exceptional sensitivity to short-term climate change; (iii) a rich record of the earliest cultural centers of Europe. Strikingly, only very few high-resolution paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic data are yet available for this region.

Overview of the study area in the SW Aegean Sea

In light of the above, an interdisciplinary study in the Myrtoon and Argolikos Basins (SW Aegean) was carried out including (i) high-resolution sea-floor mapping to reconstruct geological hazards (i.e., indications for earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis); (ii) sediment coring to study the impact of climate variability on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems during the Holocene with a particular focus on periods of critical sociocultural transitions (e.g., ~8200, 4200, and 3200 yrs BP). The integration of our results with the region’s rich archeological/historical record will yield critical insight into the influence of climatically and neotectonically driven environmental change on sociocultural evolution in the Aegean.

The 'MYRTOON' science party

Preliminary Results: Because of unfavourable wind conditions in the Myrtoon Basin between 30.09 and 05.10 preventing marine geological mapping, the survey was diverted to Argolikos Basin (Figure 1). The region bears similar geological characteristics to the Myrtoon Basin and is also located close to some of the most important socio-economical centres of the early Aegean civilizations, hence allowing to address the scientific objectives of the project.

Multibeam seafloor coverage, Airgun and Sparker lines, and core locations in Argolikos & Myrtoon Basins

A total of 369 nm and 88 nm were surveyed with the Airgun and Sparker sub-bottom profilers, respectively, and in addition, detailed multibeam sea floor mapping was carried out on both Myrtoon and Argolikos Basins (Figures 2 and 3). Moreover, eight gravity and three box cores were retrieved from the studied areas. The preliminary results yield the presence of several faults, unconformities and landslides in both basins, indicating a more complex geological structure than previously assumed of the studied area.

Some photos from the cruise capturing box coring and sub-bottom profiler operations