Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 381–396 | Cite as

Holocene mangrove dynamics and environmental change in the Rufiji Delta, Tanzania

  • Paramita PunwongEmail author
  • Rob Marchant
  • Katherine Selby
Original Article


Holocene mangrove dynamics are reconstructed from pollen, sediment and radiocarbon analyses of three cores (ANR, BNR, CNR) located across a 20 km transect in the Rufiji Delta, Tanzania. At the base of the sediment sequence, dated to about 5600 cal. year b.p., the mangroves which are present suggest a low intertidal ecosystem in response to wet conditions and a higher sea level than at the present day. After around 5600 cal. year b.p. in core BNR, mangroves retreated seaward probably due to a lower sea level and drier environmental conditions. At around 4640 cal. year b.p., mangroves shifted landward suggesting a phase of sea level rise. In the late Holocene, mangroves became established at higher elevations of the Rufiji Delta, which is now a paddy field. Mangrove taxa decreased after 1170 cal. year b.p., suggesting drier conditions and less inundation frequency, possibly due to a lower sea level. Marked vegetation changes from mangroves to terrestrial vegetation occurred after around 750 cal. year b.p., possibly related to sea level regression and/or a desiccation phase recorded during the late Holocene. Paddy fields replaced mangroves in the landward part of the transect, reflecting an increase in human settlement in this area, a trend that continues to the present day. The recent decrease of mangrove species, particularly Rhizophora mucronata, could suggest less inundation by saline water and a lower sea level, although these changes may also be due to human activities during the last millennia as indicated by charcoal analysis.


Sea level Holocene Pollen analysis Estuarine environment Charcoal analysis 



This work was carried out as a part of doctoral thesis at the University of York. Appreciation is expressed to William Kindeketa and Philip Lowe for their support and assistance throughout this fieldwork. I would like to thank Jason Rubens, Haji Machano, Frank Sima and WWF-Tanzania staff for helping me to get started, for their hospitality. The Global Environment Facility (GEF)’s support for the project, via a grant to WWF-Tanzania, is greatly appreciated. I would like to thank Benson Kimeu, Survey/GIS Technician from the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) for conducting the elevation survey through the Rufiji delta. I am grateful to the reviewers guiding me to interesting and invaluable discussions. This study was funded by The Royal Thai Government Scholarship and WWF-Tanzania. Finally, my deepest thanks to my supervisors, Rob Marchant and Katherine Selby, Environment Department, University of York, UK for their supervision, guidance and encouragement all the time.

Supplementary material

334_2012_383_MOESM1_ESM.xls (10 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paramita Punwong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rob Marchant
    • 1
  • Katherine Selby
    • 2
  1. 1.Environment Department, York Institute of Tropical Ecosystem DynamicsUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.Environment DepartmentUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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