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

16 - Karstic systems

Summary

Abstract

This chapter describes the karstic systems in southern Africa and explores their role in preserving records of past environmental and climatic conditions and archaeology. On longer glacial–interglacial timescales, multiproxy studies of clastic and organic cave deposits and calcium carbonate precipitates (speleothems) have provided information about the environment in which early humans lived. Speleothems also have potential to show millennial to annual-scale climate/environmental variability. The advantages of speleothems to provide precise ages, and the empirical relationships between speleothem chemistry and climate, are encouraging as we address the need for more globally dispersed terrestrial palaeoclimatic records. Future research should focus not only on obtaining more records, but also on improving the precision of data interpretation in terms of quantitative estimations of climate variables.

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