, Volume 19, Issue 1-2, pp 79-98

The African rain forest vegetation and palaeoenvironments during late quaternary

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Abstract

This review paper presents first the main pollen results on the vegetation history of the rain forest during the late Quaternary.

- The Lake Bosumtwi record (Ghana) shows the disappearance of rain forest from the base of the core (ca. 28 000 yr BP) to ca. 9000 yr BP. During this time interval the vegetation was of montane type with sparse clumps of trees. There is synchronism between montane vegetation disappearance and rain forest reappearance. This phenomenon occurred abruptly around 9000 yr BP.

- The Lake Barombi Mbo record (West Cameroon) shows clearly that from ca. 24 000 yr BP until the present time, rain forest persisted with limited variations, and thus, this area represents a refuge area.

From these data and other, one concludes that Afromontane vegetation extended to lowland during cool and humid phases.

Other palaeoenvironmental data were obtained by diverse geological analyses of the lacustrine sediments. For Bosumtwi, the relatively precise reconstruction of lake-level fluctuations permitted several palaeoclimatic interpretations for the main Holocene phases.

For Barombi Mbo, the evolution of total organic carbon (TOC) and total nitrogen (TON) seems to be related mainly to temperature evolution. By comparison with present-day mountain environments, TOC and TON increase in cool environments, but decrease when warmth and humidity increase, as during Holocene time, because the recycling processes speed up in the topsoil. For the same period the alteration of the soils in the catchment produced a strong increase of kaolinite. All these change intervened ca. 9500 yr BP, which is a key date in tropical Africa.

In conclusion, climatic correlations between equatorial and dry north tropical Africa illustrate how changes in the forest block must have important effects on adjacent climatic zones.