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Holocene evolution of the intermontane Tasek Bera peat deposit, Peninsular Malaysia : controls on composition… Wuest, Raphael Andreas Josef 2001

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Holocene evolution of the intermontane Tasek Bera peat deposit, Peninsular Malaysia: Controls on composition and accumulation of a tropical freshwater peat deposit by Raphael Andreas Josef Wiist M.Sc, University of Bern, Switzerland, 1995 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY . in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES DEPARTMENT OF EARTH AND OCEAN SCIENCES We accept this thesis as cjanfr^mingjp'ffie r^equired standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May 2001 © Raphael A J . Wiist, 2001 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of SjrM and OCBJAO SaenCeJ The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT The evolution and structure of a dendritic peat deposit in the interior lowland of tropical Peninsular Malaysia is investigated as a viable archive of paleoecological and paleoclimatological changes. The project was initiated due to the lack of understanding fundamental processes of intermontane peat accumulating systems mainly because previous studies have focused exclusively on coastal lowland deposits. Peat stratigraphy, mineralogy, organic petrography and geochemistry are some methods utilized in this study. The modern depositional environment of the Tasek Bera Basin includes lowland dipterocarp forest, swamp forest, Cyperaceae/Pandanaceae swamp and open water areas. Widespread peat deposition in the basin started about 5300 years BP, when Holocene climate changes led to the evolution of a wetland system. Peat accumulation progressively expanded by processes of terrestrialization of channels and subbasins and paludification of the riparian part of the lowland forest zone. Stratigraphic facies can be distinguished in the field and combined with the ash yield, which indicates rapid and cyclic changes of frequency and magnitude of runoff events, demonstrating that hydrologic and in turn climate dynamics dictate peat evolution. Although tropical peat deposits are widespread, few classification systems exist that recognize the distinctive characteristics specifically of tropical peats. A three-group field classification (fibric, hemic, sapric) for organic soils based on texture and fiber content is proposed. In addition, a new classification of organic soils based on loss of ignition and carbon content for geological, engineering, agricultural and economical studies of tropical peatlands is developed. Peat is defined as having a loss of ignition of 45 to 100 wt-%, muck 35 to 45 wt-%, organic-rich soils/sediments 20 to 35 wt-%, and mineral soils/sediments 0 to 20 wt-%. Abundant and unique Al-Si bioliths exist in the mire system of Tasek Bera. These Al - and Si-hydroxides and the opaline silica from diatoms and sponges represent a repository of Al and Si, which may contribute to mineral transformation, neoformation and alteration processes during coalification of the peat deposits. Most plant-essential nutrients are biocycled within the top 150 cm of the organic deposits causing an upward migration of plant-essential elements, such as Mg, Ca, or P, during mire evolution. Hence, incorrect paleoclimatic and paleodepositional interpretation may result from utilizing geochemical data (e.g. normalization of elements with Al , interpretations of major element data) of tropical peat deposits. With burial, the deposits of Tasek Bera Basin would yield a dendritic sediment pattern of sandstone, shale, carbonaceous shale and low to high ash coal, overlain by carbonaceous shale. Because of the dendritic nature of the basin, coal seams would most likely have a similar pattern as the Carboniferous coal deposits of the Black Warrior Basin in Alabama (USA). The peat deposits of southern Tasek Bera reveal that thick, low-ash, low sulfur peat may originate in narrow tributary valleys with moderately steep flank gradients. The deposits may be favorable precursors to dulling-upward coals, in that they contain high wood and low-ash content at depth and medium wood and slightly increasing ash content in the upper parts. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS A B S T R A C T T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S LIST O F T A B L E S LIST OF F I G U R E S D E D I C A T I O N A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S F O R E W O R D C H A P T E R 1: I N T R O D U C T I O N 1 1.1 The Tasek Bera Basin 6 1.2 Objectives and methods 11 1.3 Presentation of the thesis 12 1.4 References 14 C H A P T E R 2: R E V I E W O F N O M E N C L A T U R E A N D C L A S S I F I C A T I O N S Y S T E M S O F P E A T DEPOSITS F O R G E O L O G I C A L , E N G I N E E R I N G , A G R I C U L T U R A L A N D E C O L O G I C A L STUDIES -A N D A P P L I C A B I L I T Y T O T R O P I C A L P E A T DEPOSITS IN M A L A Y S I A 19 2.1 Abstract 20 2.2 Introduction 20 2.3 Peat - a definition 23 2.4 Some parameters used to classify peat deposits 25 2.4.1 Degree of humification 28 2.4.2 Acidity 30 2.4.3 Moisture and ash content 30 2.4.4 Carbon, nitrogen and sulfur content (CNS) 31 2.4.5 Density 31 2.4.6 Particle size 32 2.5 The Tasek Bera (West-Malaysia) peatiand - A n example 32 2.5.1 Physiography 32 2.5.2 Methodology 34 Sample sites, sample collection and field analyses 34 Laboratory analysis 35 2.6 Results 36 2.6.1 Littoral Pandanus and Lepironia environments 36 CoreB61 36 i i iv xi xiv xxix xxx xxxiii Core B141 41 CoreB37 41 2.6.2 Peat forest environments 45 Core B104 45 CoreB105 45 CoreB78 52 2.6.3 Specific analysis 57 Acidity 57 Moisture and ash 59 Organic carbon, nitrogen and sulfur (CNS) analyses 61 Density 65 Particle Size Analyses 66 2.7 Discussion and Conclusion 72 2.7.1 Problems of existing classyfication systems applied to tropical peat deposits 73 Degree of humification 73 Ash content and carbon content 74 Particle size 75 2.8 References 77 C H A P T E R 3: P R O P O S A L F O R A N E W T E X T U R E A N D A S H C L A S S I F I C A T I O N S Y S T E M OF T R O P I C A L P E A T DEPOSITS F O R G E O L O G I C A L , E N G I N E E R I N G , A G R I C U L T U R A L A N D E C O L O G I C A L STUDIES 82 3.1 Abstract 83 3.2 Introduction 83 3.3 Material and Methods 84 3.4 Purpose of field and laboratory classifications 84 3.5 Texture of organic-rich deposits 85 3.5.1 Proposed textural classification of peat 86 3.6 Ash content, organic content 92 3.6. J Proposed carbon and ash classification of peat 94 3.6.2 Determination of ash content and associated problems 99 3.7 Conclusion 100 3.8 References 101 C H A P T E R 4: H O L O C E N E A C C U M U L A T I O N O F L O W L A N D P E A T IN S O U T H E A S T ASIA: A R E G I O N A L P E R S P E C T I V E O F C L I M A T E - I N D U C E D O R G A N I C - M A T T E R P R E S E R V A T I O N 104 4.1 Abstract 105 4.2 Introduction 105 4.3 Origin and significance of organic matter accumulation in Southeast Asia 109 4.4 Peat accumulation in Southeast Asia over the past 30,000 years 115 4.5 The influence of paleoclimate on peat accumulation in Southeast Asia since the last glacial maximum 117 4.5.1 Sea level changes 117 4.5.2 Climate changes (temperature, precipitation) 121 4.6 Implications for coal studies 125 4.7 Conclusion 127 4.8 References 128 C H A P T E R 5: H O L O C E N E E V O L U T I O N O F T H E I N T E R M O N T A N E , P E A T - A C C U M U L A T I N G BASIN O F T R O P I C A L T A S E K B E R A , P E N I N S U L A R M A L A Y S I A 134 5.1 Abstract 135 5.2 Introduction 136 5.3 Physiographic settings 137 5.4 Methods 142 5.5 Results 150 5.5.1 Spatial sediment distribution 150 BA-transect 150 BK-transect 150 BB-transect 155 BC-transect 155 BO-BP-transect 160 Summary 169 5.5.2 Peat composition of selected cores from the littoral area 169 5.5.3 The palynology of the Kuin profde TB5 (Morley, 1982a) 178 5.5.4 Ash yield 178 5.6 Discussion and Interpretation 188 5.6.1 Spatial peat distribution in the intermontane basin of Tasek Bera 188 5.6.2 The initiation of organic matter accumulation in the TBB 189 5.6.3 Cyclicity and periodicity of storms and weather condition in the Tasek Bera area 192 5.6.4 Dynamic evolution ofthe Holocene organic deposits in the Tasek Bera Basin - a vegetation history based on stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates 193 5.7 Conclusions 201 5.8 References 202 C H A P T E R 6: O P A L I N E A N D Al-Si -BIOLITHS F R O M A T R O P I C A L T O P O G E N O U S M I R E S Y S T E M O F W E S T - M A L A Y S I A : A B U N D A N C E , H A B I T , E L E M E N T A L C O M P O S I T I O N , P R E S E R V A T I O N A N D S I G N I F I C A N C E 206 6.1 Abstract 207 6.2 Introduction 208 6.3 Organic composition of tropical peats 210 vi 6.4 Inorganic composition of peat deposits 210 6.4.1 Biogenic mineral matter 211 6.4.2 Detrital mineral matter 213 6.5 Tropical Tasek Bera: Physiography and onset of peat accumulation 213 6.5.7 Biological diversity of the Tasek Bera wetland 214 6.5.2 Previous studies 215 6.6 Methods 215 6.7 Results and Discussion 220 6.7.1 Biogenic silica and aluminosilicates of modern plants 221 Inorganic composition o/Eleocharis ochrostachys 227 Inorganic composition o/Lepironia articulata 222 Inorganic composition o/Pandanus helicopus 224 6.7.2 Biogenic silica and aluminosilicates of peat deposits 226 Littoral peat environment, minerotrophic mire 226 Swamp forest peat environment, ombrotrophic mire 226 6.7.3 Algal, faunal and microbial remains: chrysophyts, sponges, fungi (micorrhyzae) and bacteria 230 6.7.4 Major elemental distribution in the Tasek Bera mire 234 Minerotrophic, littoral environment 234 Ombrotrophic, swamp forest environment 239 6.7.5 Crystalline quartz and opaline silica stability in acid peat environments 245 Crystalline quartz 245 Opal sponge spicules and opal diatoms 249 6.7.6 Origin and source of the biolith composition 250 6.7.7 Comparing plant nutrients and peat elemental distribution 252 6.7.8 Aluminosilicate phytoliths - natural accumulation or amelioration of Al-toxicity? 253 6.7.9 Implication for geochemical analysis of peat 254 6.7.10 Implications for coal studies 255 6.8 Conclusion 257 6.9 References 259 C H A P T E R 7: C H A R A C T E R I Z A T I O N A N D Q U A N T I F I C A T I O N O F O R G A N I C A N D I N O R G A N I C M I N E R A L C O N S T I T U E N T S OF T R O P I C A L T O P O G E N O U S P E A T DEPOSITS F R O M T A S E K B E R A , P E N I N S U L A R M A L A Y S I A 266 7.1 Abstract 267 7.2 Introduction 268 7.3 Inorganic composition of peat deposits 271 7.3.7 Biogenic mineral matter 271 7.3.2 Detrital mineral matter 272 7.3.3 Orthochemical mineral matter 272 7.4 Tropical Tasek Bera - Physiography, geology, climate and biology 275 7.4.7 Physiographic setting 275 7.4.2 Geology - soils and geomorphology 276 7.5 Methods 276 7.6 Results 279 7.6.7 Mineralogical analysis from rheotrophic and ombrotrophic sites in Tasek Bera 279 Pandanus and Lepironia environment - rheotrophic, high-ash environments (e.g. site B53, B37, B115, B61, B102) 279 Swamp forest environment - ombrotrophic, low-ash environments (e.g. site B78, B83) 296 7.6.2 Forms of inorganic constituents in the Tasek Bera Basin 296 7.6.3 Opaline silica of modern freshwater peat deposits 297 7.6.4 Orthochemical minerals in Tasek Bera 300 7.7 Discussion 301 7.7.1 Detrital mineral matter in tropical peats - a result of climate control? 306 7.7.2 Orthochemical minerals in tropical peats 307 7.7.3 Biogenic inorganic matter- the key for mineral neoformation and concretions? 308 7.7.4 Are there missing links between modern peats and coals? 312 Peat thickness 312 Ash content and composition 315 Sulfur content 315 Lignin-content 316 7.7.5 Implications for coal studies 316 7.8 Conclusions 317 7.9 References 318 CHAPTER 8: ELEMENTAL (Pb, Se, As, Br, Zn, Ni, Cu) ANOMALIES IN TROPICAL PEAT DEPOSITS OF TASEK BERA (PENINSULAR MALAYSIA): POSSIBLE PROXY FOR CHANGES IN CLIMATE, VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS, AND ANTHROPOGENIC ACTIVITY? 325 8.1 Abstract 326 8.2 Introduction 327 8.3 Physiographic settings 329 8.4 Investigations and Methodology 331 8.4.1 Field investigations 333 8.4.2 Lab methods 333 Normalization of the chemical profdes to titanium, ash and gallium 336 Lead isotope analysis 338 Age of the peat samples 338 8.5 Results 343 8.5.1 Total metal distribution of core B78 and B78/3-W 343 8.5.2 Total metal distribution of core B53 and B142 350 8.5.3 Lead isotopes 360 8.6 Interpretation and Discussion 361 8.6.1 Metal concentration changes in ombrotrophic and minerotrophic peat deposits 361 8.6.2 Volcanic activity and its impact to climate and Old World cultures 366 8.6.3 Long term solar changes - recorded in tropical peats? 373 viii 8.7 8.8 8.6.4 Lead distribution and worldwide Pb production Conclusion References 375 383 384 C H A P T E R 9: L O W - A S H P E A T DEPOSITS F R O M A DENDRITIC, I N T E R M O N T A N E B A S I N IN T H E TROPICS: A N E W M O D E L F O R G O O D Q U A L I T Y C O A L S 392 9.1 Abstract 393 9.2 Introduction 394 9.3 Physiography 398 9.4 Previous studies in the Tasek Bera Basin 400 9.5 Material and Methods 400 9.5.1 Field characteri