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Late Glacial and Holocene sedimentary infill of Lake Mondsee (Eastern Alps, Austria) and historical rockfall activity revealed by reflection seismics and sediment core analysis


Glacigenic perialpine lakes can constitute continuous post-last glacial maximum (LGM) geological archives which allow reconstruction of both lake-specific sedimentological processes and the paleoenvironmental setting of lakes. Lake Mondsee is one among several perialpine lakes in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria, and has been previously studied in terms of paleoclimate, paleolimnology and (paleo)ecology. However, the full extent and environment of Late Glacial to Holocene sediment deposition had remained unknown, and it was not clear whether previously studied core sections were fully representative of 3D sediment accumulation patterns. In this study, the sedimentary infill of Lake Mondsee was examined via high-resolution seismic reflection survey over a 57-km extent (3.5 kHz pinger source) and a sediment core extracted from the deepest part of the lake, with a continuous length of 13.76 m. In the northern basin, seismic penetration is strongly limited in most areas because of abundant shallow gas (causing acoustic blanking). In the deeper areas, the acoustic signal reaches depths of up to 80 ms TWT (two-way travel time), representing a postglacial sedimentary sequence of at least 60-m thickness. Holocene deposits constitute only the uppermost 11.5 m of the sedimentary succession. Postglacial seismic stratigraphy of Lake Mondsee closely resembles those of well-studied French and Swiss perialpine lakes, with our data showing that most of Lake Mondsee’s sedimentary basin infill was deposited within a short time period (between 19,000 BP and 14,500 BP) after the Traun Glacier retreated from the Mondsee area, indicating an average sedimentation rate of about 1.4 cm/yr. Compared to other perialpine lakes, the seismic data from Lake Mondsee reveal little indication of mass movement activities during the Holocene. One exception, however, is rockfalls that originate from a steep cliff, the Kienbergwand, situated on the southern shore of Lake Mondsee, where, in the adjacent part of the lake, seismic profiles show mass transport deposits (MTDs), which extend approximately 450 m from the shore and are mappable over an area of about 45,300 m2. Sediment cores targeting the MTDs show two separate rockfall events. The older event consists of clast-supported angular dolomitic gravels and sands, showing high amounts of fine fraction. The younger event exhibits dolomitic clasts of up to 1.5 cm in diameter, which is mixed within a lacustrine muddy matrix. Radiocarbon dating and correlations with varve-dated sediment cores hint at respective ages of AD 1484 ± 7 for Event 1 and AD 1639 ± 5 for Event 2. As our data show no evidence of larger-scale mass movements affecting Lake Mondsee and its surroundings, we infer that the current-day morphology of the Kienbergwand is the result of infrequent medium-scale rockfalls.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Geosciences, Geophysics, Geology and Mineralogy, other