Abrupt environmental changes during the last glacial cycle in Western Mediterranean (Formentera Island, Balearic archipelago, Spain)

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A sedimentary sequence covering the entire last glacial cycle (period between Terminations I and II) outcrops along the south-eastern coast of Formentera Island. A detailed geomorphological, geological and sedimentological study, supported by geochemical, soil and soil-morphology analyses, magnetic susceptibility, phytolite content and luminescence dating (TL, OSL) allowed to reconstruct the environmental evolution of this coastal setting, and to frame it within the evolutionary pattern of the North Atlantic climate variability. Three highstands of sea level are identified in this island for MIS 5e, and a fourth one is attributed to MIS5a. MIS5 – MIS4 transition is characterized by soil development under a moist-warm climate and a descending sea level scenario. Aeolian units (72 ± 7 ka BP) developed during MIS4 under prevailing northerly winds that persisted until the beginning of MIS3, when new aeolian dunes (54 ± 5 ka BP) developed after a major sea-level lowstand. A sudden shift in prevailing winds occur within MIS3, when aeolian units (51 ± 4 ka BP) grew under the influence of S-SW winds and moister climate, evidenced by a dense root bioturbation. The greater influence of northerly winds is attributed to the weakening of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC) in North Atlantic, and enhancement of westerlies in NW Europe during colder periods. Periods of prevailing southerly winds and moister climate correlate well with warm Greenland Interstadials, and reinforcement of AMOC. Between 50 and 40ka, alluvial/colluvial sedimentary units punctuated by soil and calcrete development, witness the climatic variability recorded along this period in the North Atlantic. A sedimentary hiatus with erosion and calcrete development characterizes the transit between MIS3 and MIS2. Finally, a reddish alluvial sedimentary unit records a short span of humid and warm climate (soil development, peak in magnetic susceptibility, phytolite content) within MIS 2 (20 ± 2 ka BP – 17 + 2.4/-2.2) that contrast with the general climatic trend recorded in Western Mediterranean during the Last Glacial Maximum.