The second in my series highlighting papers in the recent volume of Palaeoecology of Africa (published entirely open access online) focuses on the research articles. The research articles make up the ‘guts’ of the volume, comprising 10 of the 24 papers. Three of these are from western Africa (Dinies et al.; Gosling et al.; Lemonnier & Lézine), two from eastern Africa (Githumbi et al.; Kinyanjui et al.), two from central Africa (Richards; Gaillard et al.), and three from southern Africa (Chevalier et al.; Hill & Finch, Hill et al.). These research articles present new data and key insights into past environmental change in Africa, which fall into two broad categories, providing information on: (i) how we can extract information from pollen data sets, and (ii) the processes operating to drive vegetation.
The contribution to extracting information from pollen records comes from studies that allows us to relate the pollen signal preserved in sediments back to the vegetation associations that they produced. These include studies that establish modern pollen-vegetation relationships (Hill & Finch), pollen productivity estimates (Hill et al.), and quantitative vegetation reconstructions (Gaillard et al.). Further, the epic manuscript of Chevalier et al. presents details of a modelling approach that allows past climatic conditions to be inferred from pollen assemblages by integrating these with modern biogeographic distribution data. Opening up new windows for reconstructing past climate change in Africa.
The combination of past vegetation information gleaned from pollen records with evidence for past climate change, fires activity (charcoal) or animal abundance (dung fungal spores) can provide new insights into what is driving vegetation dynamics. Characterisation of the impact of the Holocene climate change phenomenon known as the “African Humid Period” is covered in four studies Dines et al. in the Central Sahara, Lemonnier & Lézine in the Sahel, and Richards in Cameroon. While two studies look further back into the Pleistocene at interactions between fire, animals and vegetation (Gosling et al.), and the vegetation backdrop to ancient hominins (Kinyanjui et al.); and one at human-environment interactions in the ‘Anthropocene’ in the last few centuries (Githumbi et al.).
To find out more check out these papers open access online:
- Chevalier M, Chase BM, Quick LJ, Scott L. 2021. An atlas of southern African pollen types and their climatic affinities. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:239-257. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-15
- Dinies M, Schimmel L, Hoelzmann P, Kröpelin S, Darius F, Neef R. 2021. Holocene high-altitude vegetation dynamics on Emi Koussi, Tibesti Mountains (Chad, Central Sahara). Palaeoecology of Africa 35:27-49. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-4
- Gaillard M-J, Githumbi E, Achoundong G, Lézine A-M, Hély C, Lebamba J, Marquer L, Mazier L, Li F, Sugita S. 2021. The challenge of pollen-based quantitative reconstruction of Holocene plant cover in tropical regions: A pilot study in Cameroon. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:183-205. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-12
- Githumbi EN, Courtney Mustaphi CJ, Marchant R. 2021. Sedimentological, palynological and charcoal analyses of the hydric palustrine sediments from the Lielerai-Kimana wetlands, Kajiado, southern Kenya. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:107-126. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-8
- Gosling WD, McMichael CNH, Groenewoud Z, Roding E, Miller CS, Julier ACM. 2021. Preliminary evidence for green, brown and black worlds in tropical western Africa during the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:13-25. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-3
- Hill TR, Durthie TJ, Bunting MJ. 2021. Pollen productivity estimates from KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, South Africa. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:259-274. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-16
- Hill TR, Finch JM. 2021. Modern pollen-vegetation relationships in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:275-292. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-17
- Kinyanjui RN, Meadows M, Gillson L, Bamford MK, Behrensmeyer AK, Potts R. 2021. Reconstructing vegetation history of the Olorgesailie Basin during the Middle to Late Pleistocene using phytolith data. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:85-105. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-7
- Lemonnier K, Lézine A-M. 2021. Timing and nature of the end of the African Humid Period in the Sahel: Insight from pollen data. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:51-64. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-5
- Richards K. 2021. A Holocene pollen record from Mboandong, a crater lake in lowland Cameroon. Palaeoecology of Africa 35:207-223. DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766-13