Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 227–253 | Cite as

Holocene evolution of the crater lake at Malha, Northwest Sudan

  • Florias Mees
  • Dirk Verschuren
  • Roger Nijs
  • Henri Dumont


A reconstruction of the hydrological and environmental evolution of the crater lake at Malha (Northern Darfur, Sudan) resulted from the mineralogical and biological study of a 9.21 m section of lake sediments, representing an uninterrupted sequence of lacustrine deposition since 8 290 14C years BP.

Important changes in water supply and conditions of sedimentation are reflected in the nature of the sediments and the morphology and stratigraphical distribution of various salt minerals. Additional information on lake circulation patterns and salinity conditions are obtained from associated benthic paleocommunities, represented by ostracods and dipterid larvae. Combining both lines of evidence, the studied sequence can be divided in six distinct sections, which correspond to six successive periods in the lake's Holocene history. The first three periods, generally characterized by high lake levels, represent three generations of a meromictic lake, two of which have ended with a complete desiccation of the lake basin. Meromixis was stable during Period I, due to wind shelter and pronounced density stratification. In the course of Periods II and III stratification was repeatedly interrupted. During Period II, the disruptions were accompanied by important water budget fluctuations; a superimposed gradual decrease in net water supply eventually resulted in holomictic conditions terminating this period. Evidence of turbulence periodically affecting profundal waters is recorded in the sediments of Period III, suggesting that disruptions of stratification were now initiated by very strong winds. Between Period I and Period III, the littoral mixolimnion gradually evolved from near fresh to mesosaline. In Periods IV to VI, lake level was intermediate to low. The lake was holomictic for most of the time and meso- to hypersaline; during Period V, it repeatedly shrunk to a shallow brine pool.

The Holocene evolution of Malha Crater Lake illustrates the progressive increase in aridity over most of North Africa following a well-established, early- to mid-Holocene major humid episode. The uninterrupted sedimentary sequence lends itself for detailed reconstruction of Holocene climatic evolution in arid Northeast Africa, a region where records of continuous lacustrine deposition are extremely scarce. As the chronology of critical events in the lake's history remains as yet unsupported by radiocarbon dates, correlation with other Holocene sequences in the eastern Sahara is highly tentative at this point.

Key words

Eastern Sahara lake history climatic change saline lake meromixis gaylussite nahcolite eitelite magadiite Chironomidae Ostracoda 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Florias Mees
    • 1
  • Dirk Verschuren
    • 2
  • Roger Nijs
    • 1
  • Henri Dumont
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mineralogy, Petrography and Micropedology, Geological InstituteState University of GhentGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Institute of Animal EcologyState University of GhentGhentBelgium

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