Biomass burning and oceanic primary production estimates in the Sulu Sea area over the last 380 kyr and the East Asian monsoon dynamics
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Coccolithophorid assemblages and micro-charcoal content were analysed in giant piston core MD97-2141 recovered in the Sulu Sea (Philippines). These proxies help to reconstruct respectively the dynamics of the oceanic primary production (PP) and biomass burning in that area. PP in the Sulu Sea intensifies during the East Asian winter monsoon (EAWM) and therefore PP constitutes a proxy for EAWM dynamics. Most of the precipitation in the Sulu Sea region occurs during the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM). Because the intensity of biomass burning is related to dryness of the surrounding area, the sedimentary micro-charcoal content can be used as an inverse proxy for EASM intensity. Our results show that the EAWM intensifies during glacial times in agreement with previous studies. Precessional forcing appears to act directly on EAWN because of the early response of PP in that frequency band. The micro-charcoal record exhibits complex dynamics, which we attribute to the competing influence of the long-term El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-like forcing and the glacial/interglacial cycle on EASM. These influences create an unusual frequency spectrum with power around 30 kyr and 19 kyr attributed to the non-linear response to the 100-kyr cycle (glacial) and the 23-kyr (ENSO) cycle. A factor of two increase in the amplitude of the micro-charcoal variability between 51 and 10 ka BP could correspond to Homo sapiens biomass burning in the style of the fire-stick farming of the Australian Aborigines. We also find, on precession cycles, an opposite phase between EASM and EAWM records and an advance of -delta(18)O and delta(18)O respectively by 2000 yr. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.