Zhen Li

Postdoctoral Fellow


(778) 678-5268

My research is motivated by fundamental questions: how oceanographic conditions changed in coasts and oceans response to climate change in the past, how much difference the changes between coasts and oceans, what are the influence factors on the changes and differences, how the climatic and sea-level changes as well as human activity affect coastal environments and ecosystems, especially marine primary productivity (PP). Seeking answers to these questions inspires me to work on reconstructions of paleoceanographic conditions on various time and spatial scales using multiple proxies. I mostly use palynological analysis (microfossils of dinoflagellate cysts, pollen and spores, charcoal, foraminiferal organic linings, etc.), sediment facies analysis (grain-size, structure, color, fossil contents, sedimentary sequences, etc.) and geochemical proxies (Si, TOC, Ba, Fe, Cr etc.) to reconstruct past climate (e.g. temperature and precipitation), oceanographic conditions (e.g., SST, SSS, marine PP, eutrophication level and oxygenation), sea-level change, and human activities. Dinoflagellate cysts are used for the reconstruction of specific oceanographic patterns. Pollen and spores in marine environment could reflect regional vegetation, climate, or coastal vegetation and coastline migration. Geophysical survey, sediment facies and geochemical analyses help for understanding regional background of sedimentary environments. With these interests and methods, my research focuses on and contributes to the following aspects in the Pacific Ocean with large human population living in coastal areas and serious coastal risks from sea-level rise, climate warming, and eutrophication.

  • Paleoceanographic reconstructions in the North Pacific; 
  • Asian monsoon climatic and oceanographic changes in the western Pacific region during the Holocene;
  • Holocene mangrove succession and mega-delta initiation in response to the relative sea-level change and monsoon climatic variation; 
  • Human activities in response to modern mega-delta initiation and coastal development. 


Li, Z., Pospelova, V., Kawamura, H., Luo, C., Mertens, N.K., Hernandez-Almeida, I., Yin, K., Wu, Y., Wu, H., and Xiang, R. (2019). Dinoflagellate cyst distribution in surface sediments from the South China Sea in relation to hydrographic conditions and primary productivity. Marine Micropaleontology (on line). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marmicro.2019.101815.

Mertens, K.N., Gu, H., Gurdebeke, P.R., Takano, Y., Clarke, D., Aydin, H., Li, Z., Pospelova, V., Matsuoka, K., Head, M.J. (2019). A review of rare or not well-known extant marine organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst taxa of the orders Gymnodiniales and Peridiniales from the Northern Hemisphere. Marine Micropaleontology (online). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marmicro.2019.101 773.

Gurdebeke, P.R., Mertens, K.N., Pospelova, V., Matsuoka, K., Li, Z., Gribble, K.E., Gu, H., Bogus, K., Vrielinck, H., and Louwye, S. (2019). Taxonomic revision, phylogeny, and cyst wall composition of the dinoflagellate cyst genus Votadinium Reid (Dinophyceae, Peridiniales, Protoperidiniaceae) Palynology (online). https://doi.org/10.1080/01916122.2019.1580627.

Wang, W., Meng, X., Wang, X., Li, Z. (2019). The sub-fossils of leaf fragments in sediments as an indicator of mangrove development in the Yingluo Bay, Guangxi, Southwest China over the last 130 years.  Acta Oceanologica Sinica 38, 27–34.


Li, Z., Pospelova, V., Lin, H.-L., Liu, L., and Song, B. (2018). Seasonal dinoflagellate cyst production and terrestrial palynomorth deposition in the monsoon influenced South China Sea: A sediment trap study from the Southwest Taiwan waters. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 257, 117–139.

Song, B., Yi, S., Jia, H., Nahm, W.H., Kim, J.C., Lim, J., Lee, J.Y., Sha, L., Mao, L., Yang, Z., Nakanishi, T., Hong, W., and Li, Z. (2018). Pollen record of the mid- to late-Holocene centennial climate change on the east coast of South Korea and its influential factors. Journal of Asian Earth Science 115, 240–249.


Li, Z., Pospelova, V., Liu, L., Zhou, R., and Song, B. (2017) High-resolution palynological record of Holocene climatic and oceanographic changes in the northern South China Sea. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 483, 94–124.

Meng, X., Xia, P., Li, Z., and Meng, D. (2017) Mangrove development and its response to Asian Monsoon in the Yingluo Bay (SW China) over the last 2000 years. Estuaries and Coasts 40, 540–552.

Song, B., Li, Z., Lu, H., Mao, L., Saito, Y., Yi, S., Lim, J., Li, Z., Lu, A., Sha, L., Zhou, R., Zuo, X., and Pospelova, V., (2017) Pollen record of the centennial climate changes during 9–7 cal ka BP in the Changjiang (Yangtze) River Delta plain, China. Quaternary Research 87, 275–287.

Xia, P., Meng, X., Li, Z., and Feng, A. (2017). Organic carbon isotope and pollen evidence for mangrove development and response to human activity in Guangxi (Southwest China) over the last 140 years. Acta Oceanologica Sinica 36 (2), 11–21.


Zuo, X., Lu, H., Li, Z., Song, B., Xu, D., Zou, Y., Wang, C., Huan, X., and He, K. (2016) Phytolith and diatom evidence for rice exploitation and environmental changes during the early mid-Holocene in the Yangtze Delta. Quaternary Research 86, 304–315.

Meng, X., Xia, P., Li, Z., and Meng, D. (2016). Mangrove degradation and response to anthropogenic disturbance in Maowei Sea (SW China) since 1926 AD: Mangrove-derived OM and pollen. Organic Geochemistry 98, 166–175.

Nguyen, T.T.H., Zhang, W., Li, Z., Li, J., Ge, C., Liu, J., Bai, X., Feng, H., and Yu, L. (2016) Assessment of heavy metal pollution in Red River surface sediments, Vietnam. Marine Pollution Bulletin 113, 513–519.

Nguyen, T.T.H., Zhang, W., Li, Z., Li, J., Ge, C., Liu, J., Bai, X., Feng, H., and Yu, L. (2016) Magnetic properties of sediments of the Red River: Effect of sorting on the source-to-sink pathway and its implications for environmental reconstruction. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 17, 270–281.

Xia, P., Meng, X., Li, Z., and Feng, A. (2016) Sedimentary records of mangrove evolution during the past one hundred years based on stable carbon isotope and pollen evidences in Maowei, SW China. Journal of Ocean University of China. 15 (3): 447–455.


Nageswara Rao, K., Saito, Y., NagaKumar, K.Ch.V., Demudu, G.,  Rajawat, A.S., Kubo, S., and Li, Z. (2015). Palaeogeography and evolution of the Godavari delta, east coast of India during the Holocene: An example of wave-dominated and fan-delta settings. Palaeogeography‚ Palaeoclimatology‚ Palaeoecology. 440: 213–233.

Xia, P., Meng, X., Feng, A., Li, Z., and Yang, G. (2015). Sediment compaction rates in mangrove swamps of Guangxi and its mangrove migration response to sea-level rise. Acta Sedimentologica Sinca 33, 551–560 (in Chinese with English absract).

Xia, P., Meng, X., Feng, A., and Li, Z. (2015) Historical retrospection on mangrove development using stable carbon isotopes and pollen analysis, and its response to climate change and human activity. Acta Oceanologia Sinica. 37 (3): 77–85.

Xia, P., Meng, X., Li, Z., Feng, A., Yin, P., and Zhang, Y. (2015) Mangrove development and its response to environmental change in Yingluo Bay (SW China) during the last 150 years: Stable carbon isotopes and mangrove pollen. Organic Geochemistry. 85: 32–41.


Liu, L., Fu, M., Li, Z., Li, X., Hu, G., Chen, Y., Zhou, R. (2014). Deepwater Geomorphology of the Liwan 3–1 Gas Field in the northern South China Sea and its Geo-Hazard Risk. In: Report of Geological Hazard Assessment and Prediction in the northern slope of the South China Sea (2011ZX05056–001–02) (in Chinese).


Song, B., Li, Z., Saito, Y., Okuno, J., Li, Z., Lu, A., Hua, D., Li, J., Li, Y., and Nakashima, R. (2013) Initiation of the Changjiang (Yangtze) delta and its response to the mid-Holocene sea level change. Palaeogeography‚ Palaeoclimatology‚ Palaeoecology. 388: 81–97.

Zhou, R., Li, Z., Song, B., Xie, X., Li, Z., and Lu, A. (2013). Reliability analysis of X-ray fluorescence core-scanning in the Yangtze River delta limnetic sediments. Quaternary Sciences 33 (4), 697–704 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z.Q., Wu, Y., Li, Z., Song, B., and Dang, X.F. (2013). Distribution and source of organic matter in the surface sediments from the Red River subaquatic delta, Vietnam. Oceanologia Et Limnologia Sinica 44 (3), 577–583 (in Chinese with English abstract).


Li, Z., Saito, Y., Li, Z., Tamura, T., Song, B., Lu,  A., Sieng, S., Li, J., and Zhang, Y. (2012) Mid-Holocene mangrove succession and its response to sea level change in the upper Mekong delta, Cambodia. Quaternary Research. 78: 386–399.

Xia, P., Meng, X., Li, Z., Feng, A., and Wang, X. (2012). Sedimentary records of environmental evolution during the recent 100 years in the coastal zone of Guangxi province. Acta Sedimentologica Sinica 30 (2), 326–332 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Mao, L., Batten, D.J., Fujiki, T., Li, Z., Dai, L., and Weng, C. (2012) Key to the mangrove pollen and spores of the southern China: an aid to palynological interpretation on Quaternary marine deposits in the South China Sea. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 176–177: 41–67.

Li, Z., Zhang, Y., Lu, A., Song, B. (2012) High-resolution Holocene climate change recorded in the Gulf of Tonkin (Beibu Bay), Northwestern South China Sea. Japanese Journal of Palynology 58 (suppl): 128–129.


Zhang, Y., Jia, L., Li, Z., and Dai, L. (2011). A high-resolution palynological record and its paleo-environmental interpretation in the low latitude of South China Sea since last deglaciation. Marine Geology & Quaternary Geology 31 (2): 79–86 (in Chinese with English abstract).


Li, Z., Zhang, Y., Li, Y. and Zhao, J. (2010) Palynological records of Holocene monsoon change from the Gulf of Tonkin (Beibuwan)‚ northwestern of South China Sea. Quaternary Research. 74: 8–14.

Zhang, Y., Li, Z., and Zhao, J. (2010). Sporopollen and algae assemblages in deep sea sediments in the South China Sea and paleoclimate and paleoenvironment recorded in them. Marine Geology & Quaternary Geology 30 (1), 77–82 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z., Li, Z., Zhang, W., Li, J., Meng, X., Liu, L., and Li, C. (2010). Pollen assemblage and sedimentary environment evolution in the coastal zone in Qinzhou Bay, Guangxi Province. Quaternary Science 30 (5): 1–11 (in Chinese with English abstract).


Li, Z.‚ Saito, Y., Dang, X.‚ Matsumoto‚ E., and Vu, Q. (2009). Warfare rather than agriculture as a critical influence on fires in the late Holocene‚ inferred from northern Vietnam. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). 106 (28): 11472–11477.

Li‚ Z., Song‚ B., Saito‚ Y., Li‚ J., Li‚ Z., and Lu, A. (2009). Sedimentary facies and Geochemical Characteristics of Jiangdou Core JD01 from the upper delta plain of Changjiang (Yangtze) Delta‚ China. In: Amorosi‚ A. (Ed.) Proceedings of the 27th IAS meeting of Sedimentologists. Medimond: Bologna (Italy)‚ p.55–65.

Song, B., Li, Z., Li, J., Li, Z., Dang, X., and Matsumoto, E. (2009). Study on surface sediment characteristics and distribution in the northern Rid River subaqueous delta, Vietnam. Marine Science Bulletin 28 (6), 78–83 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Lu, A., Li, Z., Li, J., Dang, X., and Matsumoto, E. (2009). Comparative experiments of extracting charcoals in sediments from the Red River Basin, Vietnam. Quaternary Sciences 29 (4), 826–829 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, J., Li, Z., Dang, X., Matsumoto, E., and Jiang, H. (2009). Characteristics of vegetation types and distributions around the Red River, Vietnam. Guihaia 29 (6), 744–750 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Before 2008

Li, Z., Zhang, Z.‚ Li, J., Li, Z., Liu, L., Fan, H., and Li, G. (2008) Pollen distribution in surface sediments of a mangrove system‚ Yingluo Bay, Guangxi‚ China. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 152: 21–31.

Li, Z., Li, J., Li, Z., Zhang, L., and Luo, Z. (2008). The primary research on the Quaternary stratigraphic sequence and the characteristics of the water-bearing stratum in the sea of Shengshi Area, Zhejiang Province. Shanghai Geology 106 (2), 9–18 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, J., Li, Z., Zhao, B., and Jiang, H. (2008). Study on preparation methods for concentrating pollen and spores from marine muddy sediment. Advances in marine science 26 (2): 184–189 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z., Saito, Y., Matsumoto‚ E., Wang, Y., Tanabe‚ S., Zang, J., and Vu, Q. (2006) Climate change and human impact on the Song Hong (Red River) delta‚ Vietnam‚ during the Holocene. Quaternary International. 144: 4–28.

Li, Z., Saito‚ Y., Matsumoto‚ E., Wang, Y., Tanabe, S., and Vu, Q. (2006) Palynological Record of climate change during the last deglaciation from the Song Hong (Red River) delta‚ Vietnam. Palaeogeography‚ Palaeoclimatology‚ Palaeoecology. 235: 406–430.

Li‚ Z., Zang, J., Saito‚ Y., Xu, X., Wang‚ Y., Matsumoto‚ E., and Zhang, Z. (2005). Several cooling events over the Song Hong delta, Vietnam during the past 5,000 years. Advances in Marine Science 23 (1):43–53(in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z., Wang, K., Wang, Y., Zhang, Y., Lu, H., and Mao, L. (2002). A preliminary study on the feasibility for reconstructing paleoenvironment using the mangrove sporopollen-climate factor transfer function. Advances in Marine Science 20(3): 73–78 (in Chinese with English abstract).

 Fu, M., Li, Z., Xu, X., and Shi, X. (2001). Sporopollen analysis of Core B10 in the southern Yellow Sea and the reflected characteristics of climate changes. Chinese Science Bulletin, 46 (Supp.): 39–43.

Li, Z., Wang, Y., Liu, Z., Xu, X. (2001). Palynological evidence on the climate changes recorded in East China Sea during mid- and late-Holocene. Ocean Bulletin 20 (5) (in Chinese with English abstract).

Liu‚ Z., Li‚ T., Li‚ P., Huang‚ X., Berne‚ S.‚ Saito‚ Y., Cheng‚ Z.‚ Wei‚ G.‚ Liu‚ L.‚ and Li‚ Z. (2001). The paleoclimatic events and cause in the Okinawa Trough during 50 ka BP. Chinese Science Bulletin 46: 153–157.

Chen, Z., Shi, X., Liu, D., Li, Z. (2001). Micro-paleobiologic assemblages features and the palaeo-environment changes in the Core B10 from the Southern Yellow Sea. Chinese Science Bulletin, Vol. 46 (Supp.).

Lu, H., Wang, Y., Wang, G., Yang, H., and Li, Z. (2000). Analysis of carbon isotope in phytoliths from C3 and C4 plants and modern soils. Chinese Science Bulletin 45 (19), 1804–1808.

Liu, Z., Li, P. Li, T., Huang, Q., Chen, Z., Wei, G., Liu, L., Li, Z., Berne, S., Saito, Y. (2000). Palaeo-climatic events recorded in Okinawa Trough in last 50, 000 years. Chinese Science Bulletin 45 (16), 1776–1780.

Liu, Z., Saito, Y., Li, T., Berne, S., Chen, Z., Li, P., Li, Z., Guichard‚ F.‚ and Floch‚ G. (1999). Millennial-scale paleoceanography in Okinawa Trough during Late Quaternary period. Chinese Science Bulletin 44 (8), 1705–1709.

Zhang, W., Wang, K., and Li, Z. (1999). Sporo-pollen assemblages in beach sediments in Guangxi and Guangdong and its Significance. Marine Science Bulletin 18 (1), 36–42 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Zhang, Y., Wang, K., Zhang, W., Li, Z., and Mao, L. (1999). Evolution of mangrove forests in Northeastern Hainan Island since mid-Holocene. Marine Science Bulletin 18 (2), 52–57 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Wang, K., Zhang, Y., and Li, Z. (1998). Palynological study on the surface samples of Mangrove in Yingluo Bay, Guangxi. Acta sedmentologica snica 16 (3), 31–37 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li‚ Z., Wang‚ Y., and Xu, X. (1998) A new resource-pollen. 21Century. 5 (264).

Li‚ Z., Wang‚ Y., and Xu, X. (1998). Danger impending over the coastal cities. 21 Century.5 (223).

Wang, K., Zhang, Y., and Li, Z. (1997). Development of the Study on Paleoenvironment and Coastal Mangrove Pollen. Advance in Earth Sciences 12 (6), 541–545 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Zhang, Y., Wang, K., and Li, Z. (1997). Study on pollen morphology of Rhizophoraceae family in China and its paleoenvironment implications. Marine Science Bulletin 16 (6), 31–38 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Zhang, Y., Wang, K., and Li, Z. (1997). Studies on pollen morphology of Sonneratia genus in China and its paleoecological environment significance. Marine Geology & Quaternary Geology 17 (2), 47–52 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z. (1997). Tree of Aegiceras. Journal of plant. 1 (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z., Wang, K., and Zhang, Y. (1997). Application of palynological analysis on criminal investigation. People’s Public Security. 22 (1) (in Chinese with English abstract).

Li, Z., Yang, Z., and Feng, W. (1996). Pollen assemblages and the human activity environment on the Maqiao relics, Shanghai. Transaction of Tongji University 7 (2), 69–75 (in Chinese with English abstract).