African ecosystems are at great risk. Despite their ecological and economic importance, long‐standing ideas about African forest ecology and biogeography, such as the timing of changes in forest extent and the importance of disturbance, have been unable to be tested due to a lack of sufficiently long records. Here, we present the longest continuous terrestrial record of late Quaternary vegetation from southern Africa collected to date from a drill core from Lake Malawi covering the last ~600,000 years. Pollen analysis permits us to investigate changes in vegetation structure and composition over multiple climatic transitions. We observe nine phases of forest expansion and collapse related to regional hydroclimate change. The development of desert, steppe and grassland vegetation during arid periods is likely dynamically linked to thresholds in regional hydrology associated with lake level and moisture recycling. Species composition of these dryland ecosystems varied greatly and is unlike the vegetation found at Malawi today, with assemblages suggesting strong Somali‐Masai affinities. Furthermore, nearly all semiarid assemblages contain low forest taxa abundances, suggesting that moist lowland gallery forests formed refugia along waterways during arid times. When the region was wet, forests were species‐rich and very high afromontane tree abundances suggest frequent widespread lowland colonization by modern high elevation trees. Furthermore, species composition varied little amongst forest phases until ~80 ka when disturbance tolerant tree taxa characteristic of the modern vegetation increased in abundance. The waxing and waning of forests has important implications for understanding the processes that control modern tropical vegetation biogeography as well as the environments of early humans across Africa. Finally, this work highlights the resilience of montane forests during previous warm intervals, which is relevant for future climate change; however, we point to a fundamental shift in disturbance regimes which are crucial for the structure and composition of modern East African landscapes.
Global Change Biology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.
Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.
All for just $49/month
Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly
Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.
Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.
Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.
All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.
“Hi guys, I cannot tell you how much I love this resource. Incredible. I really believe you've hit the nail on the head with this site in regards to solving the research-purchase issue.”Daniel C.
“Whoa! It’s like Spotify but for academic articles.”@Phil_Robichaud
“I must say, @deepdyve is a fabulous solution to the independent researcher's problem of #access to #information.”@deepthiw
“My last article couldn't be possible without the platform @deepdyve that makes journal papers cheaper.”@JoseServera