- Lake Van record is the longest Quaternary paleoclimate archive in the Near East.
- It documents multiple glacial–interglacial cycles encompassing the last 600 ka.
- The pollen data reflect high-amplitude climate shifts.
- The results are compared with continental, marine and ice-core records.
Lake Van is the fourth largest terminal lake in the world (38.5°N, 43°E, volume 607 km3, area 3570 km2, maximum water depth 460 m), extending for 130 km WSW–ENE on the eastern Anatolian high plateau, Turkey. The sedimentary record of Lake Van, partly laminated, obtains a long and continuous continental sequence that covers multiple interglacial–glacial cycles. Promoted by the potential of the sedimentary sequence for reconstructing the paleoecological and paleoclimate development of the Near East, a deep drilling operation was carried out in 2010 supported by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP). The 219 m long continental pollen record presented here is based on a well-dated composite profile drilled on the so-called Ahlat Ridge in water depth of 360 m encompassing the last 600,000 years. It is the longest continuous continental pollen record of the Quaternary in the entire Near East and central Asia obtained to date. The glacial–interglacial cycles and pronounced interstadials are clearly reflected in the vegetation development based on millennial-scale time resolution. In general, the glacial/stadial vegetation is characterized by dwarf-shrub steppe and desert steppe, whereas the climax vegetation of past interglacials can be described as oak steppe-forest similar to the present interglacial in this sensitive semi-arid region between the Black, Caspian, and Mediterranean Seas. By comparing the Lake Van pollen record with other western Asian and southern European long continental pollen sequences as well as marine and ice-core records, the regional variability of the climate signals is also discussed.
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