The linear dunes of the Kalahari, now largely inactive, have long been identified as having potential palaeoenvironmental significance. The application of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating to these dunes in the 1990s provided the first chronology of aeolian accumulation in this region, though field methodologies and time-consuming multiple-aliquot laboratory protocols limited both the depth of sampling in dune bodies and the total number of samples dated. In order to permit a more thorough investigation of the potential of these dunes to preserve long chronological records, this intensive study presents 71 OSL ages from the linear dunes of the southwestern Kalahari at Witpan, South Africa, sampled with coring equipment at regular and frequent intervals down to bedrock. The earliest sand accumulation recorded at Witpan is at 104 ka, and in spatially discrete locations, other evidence of dune activity is recorded at 77–76, 57–52 and 35–27 ka. Although an inherently discontinuous archive, the linear dunes of the southwestern Kalahari have the potential to record multiple phases of dune construction. Following the Last Glacial Maximum there is near continuous evidence of dune-building, with a peak of accumulation recorded from 15 to 9 ka at five individual sites. This latter period is generally recognised from other proxy evidence as being unusually arid in this region, and such periods of dune activity are likely to be related to intensification of the continental anticyclone. During the Holocene, accumulation has continued at most sites sampled, albeit at a lesser intensity. This may imply that these dunes are presently not far from thresholds of activation.
Quaternary Science Reviews – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2007
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