, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 127-140

Vegetation and climate changes during the last 21 000 years in S.W. Africa based on a marine pollen record

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A high resolution marine pollen record from site GeoB1023, west of the northern Namib desert provides data on vegetation and climate change for the last 21 ka at an average resolution of 185 y. Pollen and spores are mainly delivered to the site by the Cunene river and by surface and mid-tropospheric wind systems. The main pollen source areas are located between 13°S and 21°S, which includes the northern Namib desert and semi-desert, the Angola-northern Namibian highland, and the north-western Kalahari. The pollen spectra reflect environmental changes in the region. The last glacial maximum (LGM) was characterised by colder and more arid conditions than at present, when a vegetation with temperate elements such as Asteroideae, Ericaceae, and Restionaceae grew north of 21°S. At 17.5 ka cal. B.P., an amelioration both in temperature and humidity terminated the LGM but, in the northern Kalahari, mean annual rainfall in the interval 17.5-14.4 ka cal. B.P. was probably 100–150 mm lower than at present (400–500 mm/y). The Late-glacial to early Holocene transition includes two arid periods, i.e. 14.4–12.5 and 10.9–9.3 ka cal. B.P. The last part of the former period may be correlated with the Younger Dryas. The warmest and most humid period in the Holocene occurred between 6.3 and 4.8 ka cal. B.P. During the last 2000 years, human impact, as reflected by indications of deforestation, enhanced burning and overgrazing, progressively intensified.