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The Lake Towuti Drilling Project (TOWUTI)



Lake TowutiLake Towuti (2.5°S, 121°E) is a, 560 km2, 200-m deep tectonic lake at the downstream end of the Malili lake system, a set of five, ancient (1-2 Ma) tectonic lakes located in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Lake Towuti’s location in central Indonesia provides an important opportunity to reconstruct long-term terrestrial paleoclimate change in a crucially important yet understudied region- the Western Pacific warm pool, heart of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Lake Towuti has high rates of floral and faunal endemism and is surrounded by one of the most diverse tropical forests on Earth making it a hotspot of Sotheast Asian biodiversity. The ultramafic (ophiolitic) rocks and lateritic soils surrounding Lake Towuti provide ferruginous metal substrates that feed a diverse, exotic microbial community in the lake and its sediments, potentially analogous to the microbial ecosystems that operated in the Archean Oceans and on Mars.  The Towuti Drilling Program will provide valuable new information to understand the climate, biological, and geomicrobiological evolution of this unique system.

Between 2007-2010 we collected highly spatially resolved seismic reflection data (CHIRP and airgun) and numerous long sediment piston cores from various sites distributed across the lake. Seismic data revealed the presence of well-stratified and undisturbed sequences of up to 150 m thick, interpreted as continuous lacustrine sediment infill, which is typically underlain by more heterogeneous sediment packages up to 200 m thick, interpreted as fluvio-lacustrine sediment infill. Multiproxy analyses of our sediment cores document a continuous and detailed record of moisture balance variations and environmental change in Lake Towuti during the past 60 kyr BP, demonstrating the enormous promise of Lake Towuti for an ICDP drilling campaign.  Here we propose an integrated Towuti Drilling Project to obtain drill core from the lacustrine and fluvio-lacustrine sequences in Lake Towuti.  This will provide ideal material to gather information on

  1. environmental, climatic, and limnological change over multiple glacial-interglacial cycles during the past ~650,000 years;
  2. the age and origin of the lake and the environmental and climatic context that shaped the evolutionary history of endemic faunal and floral elements;
  3. long-term changes in the microbial ecosystem, as well as microbial processes operating at depth in the sediment column.

In order to best address the scientific key objectives we propose to drill three sites that were selected by the TOWUTI Science Team based on site survey datasets and mutual discussions using the Deep Lakes Drilling System.

(Figure: © J. Russell)



Asia, Indonesia, Lake Towuti



2.5° S, 121° E (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • workshop March 26 to 29, 2012


Principal Investigators
  • James Michael Russell, Brown University, Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences
  • Hendrik Vogel, University of Bern, Institute of Geological Sciences
  • Satria Bijaksana, Bandung Institute of Technology (Institut Teknologi Bandung), Global Geophysics Research Group
  • Thomas von Rintelen, Museum fuer Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity at the Humboldt University Berlin
  • Martin Melles, University of Cologne, Institute of Prehistoric Archeology
  • David A. Fowle, University of Kansas, Department of Geology
  • Sean A. Crowe, University of British Columbia, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Sean A. Crowe, University of British Columbia, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  • John William King, University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography
  • Ian Watkinson, Royal Holloway University of London, Department of Earth Sciences, Fault Dynamics Research Group
  • Nigel J. Wattrus, University of Minnesota at Duluth, Large Lakes Observatory
  • Gordon Douglas Haffner, University of Windsor, Department of Earth Sciences, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research
  • Janelle Stevenson, Australian National University, College Asia and the Pacific, Archeology and Natural History
  • Ristiyanti Marsetiyowati Marwoto, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Research Centre for Biology



Asia, Geomicrobiology, ICDP-2013/02, Indonesia, Lake Drilling, Lake Towuti, Paleoclimate, Speciation, TOWUTI


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