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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: June 2016

10 - Desert dune environments

Summary

Abstract

The distribution and diverse nature of dunes in southern African drylands makes them a complex and enigmatic landscape component. While dunes are dominant landscape features in large areas of the Kalahari and Namib deserts, localised and topographically constrained dunes elsewhere are also an important part of the continental dune record. Over 600 published luminescence ages from dune sediments through the subcontinent should, in theory, make possible chronometrically robust analyses of the Quaternary palaeoclimate record. Compared to early aridity- and morphology-focussed interpretations of the dune record, in which three or four phases of dune development were proposed with a focus on the period of the Last Glacial Maximum, today’s data demonstrate a complex and regionally variable record of dune development, with almost continuous dune accumulation through the last 30 kyr preserved in the southwest Kalahari and a more sporadic record in presently wetter eastern and northern areas. Dune geomorphological proxies require careful evaluation before Quaternary climate inferences can be usefully made.

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