Skip to main content Accessibility help

Climatic and volcanic forcing revealed in a 50,000-year diatom record from Lake Massoko, Tanzania

  • Philip Barker (a1), David Williamson (a2), Françoise Gasse (a2) and Elisabeth Gibert (a3)


The interactions between climatic and volcanic forcing on diatom communities contained in a 50,000-year sedimentary sequence from Lake Massoko, Tanzania, were examined. At the century scale, 19 discrete tephra inputs to the lake isolated the sedimentary nutrient supply and shifted the diatom communities to those tolerant of low phosphorus levels, whereas at the millennial scale, diatom-inferred shifts in precipitation–evaporation based on conductivity optima and diatom life-form ratios were broadly similar to lake-level reconstructions from Lake Rukwa, Lake Malawi, and others in the region. Some fluctuations of Lake Massoko are consistent with the precession-driven changes in insolation, but the major climate shifts do not relate directly to orbital forcing of summer insolation south of the equator and show more consistency with records from the equatorial and northern tropics that receive rainfall from the passing of the intertropical convergence zone. Sea surface temperatures are strongly correlated to multimillennial-scale climate patterns over this region of Africa.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author.E-mail address: (P. Barker).


Hide All
Bard, E., (1998). Geochemical and geophysical implications of the radiocarbon calibration. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 62, 20252038.
Barker, P., Telford, R., Gasse, F., and Thevenon, R., (2002). Late Pleistocene and Holocene palaeohydrology of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania, inferred from diatom analysis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 187, 295305.
Barker, P., Telford, R., Merdaci, O., Williamson, D., Taieb, M., Vincens, A., and Gibert, E., (2000). The sensitivity of a Tanzanian crater lake to catastrophic tephra input and four millennia of climate change. Holocene 10, 303310.
Barker, P.A., Gasse, F., (2003). New evidence for a reduced water balance in East Africa during the Last Glacial Maximum: implication for model-data comparison. Quaternary Science Reviews 22, 823837.
Berger, A., and Loutre, M.F., (1991). Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years. Quaternary Science Reviews 10, 297317.
Bergonzini, L., Gibert, E., Winckel, A., and Merdaci, O., (2001). Water and isotopic (18O and 2H) budget of Lake Massoko, Tanzania. Quantification of exchange between Lake and groundwater. Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences Serie II Fascicule A Sciences de la Terre et des Planètes 333, 617623.
Beuning, K.R.M., Talbot, M.R., and Kelts, K., (1997). A revised 30,000-year paleoclimatic and paleohydrologic history of Lake Albert, East Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 136, 259279.
Blunier, T., Schwander, J., Stauffer, B., Stocker, T., Dallenbach, A., Indermühle, A., Tschumi, J., Chappellaz, J., Raynaud, D., and Barnola, J.M., (1997). Timing of the Antarctic cold reversal and the atmospheric CO2 increase with respect to the Younger Dryas event. Geophysical Research Letters 24, 26832686.
Bonnefille, R., and Chalié, F., (2000). Pollen-inferred precipitation time-series from equatorial mountains, Africa, the last 40 kyr BP. Global and Planetary Change 26, 2550.
Finney, B.P., Sholz, C.A., Johnson, T.C., and Trumbore, S., (1996). Late Quaternary lake-level changes of Lake Malawi. Johnson, T.C., and Odada, E.O. The Limnology, Climatology and Paleoclimatology of the East African Lakes. Gordon & Breach, Amsterdam. 495508.
Gasse, F., (1986). East African Diatoms. Taxonomy, Ecological Distribution. J. Cramer, Berlin.
Gasse, F., (2000). Hydrological changes in the African tropics since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 19, 189211.
Gasse, F., Barker, P.A., and Johnson, T.C., (2002). A 24,000 yr diatom record from the northern basin of Lake Malawi. Odada, E.O., and Olago, D.O. East African Great Lakes. Limnology, Paleolimnology and Biodiversity. Advances in Global Change Research. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht. 393414.
Gasse, F., Juggins, S., and Ben Khelifa, L., (1995). Diatom-based transfer functions for inferring past hydrochemical characteristics of African lakes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 117, 3154.
Gasse, F., Lédée, V., Massault, M., and Fontes, J.C., (1989). Water-level fluctuations of Lake Tanganyika in phase with oceanic changes during the last glaciation and deglaciation. Nature 342, 5759.
Gasse, F., and Van Campo, E., (1994). Abrupt post-glacial climatic events in West Asia and North African monsoon domains. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 126, 435456.
Gasse, F., and Van Campo, E., (1998). A 40,000-yr pollen and diatom record from Lake Tritrivakely, Madagascar, in the southern tropics. Quaternary Research 49, 299311.
Gasse, F., and Van Campo, E., (2001). Late Quaternary environmental changes from a pollen and diatom record in the southern tropics (Lake Tritrivakely, Madagascar). Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 167, 287308.
Gibert, E., Bergonzini, L., Massault, M., and Williamson, D., (2002). AMS 14C chronology of continuous deposits from a crater lake (Lake Massoko, Tanzania). modern water balance and environmental implications. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 187, 307322.
Grimm, E.C., (1987). CONISS. a FORTRAN 77 program for stratigraphically constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental sum of squares. Computers and Geosciences 13, 1335.
Haberyan, K.A., (1987). Fossil diatoms and the palaeolimnology of Lake Rukwa, S.W. Tanzania. Freshwater Biology 17, 429436.
Hickman, M., and Reasoner, M.A., (1994). Diatom responses to late Quaternary vegetation and climate change, and to deposition of two tephras in an alpine and sub-alpine lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. Journal of Paleolimnology 11, 173188.
Hoagland, K.D., Roemer, S.C., and Rosowski, J.R., (1982). Colonization and community structure of two periphyton assemblages with emphasis on the diatoms (Bacillariophyceae). American Journal of Botany 69, 188213.
Holmgren, K., Karlén, W., and Shaw, P., (1995). Paleoclimatic significance of the stable isotopic composition and petrology of a Late Pleistocene stalagmite from Botswana. Quaternary Research 43, 320328.
Interlandi, S.J., Kilham, S.S., and Theriot, E.C., (1999). Responses of phytoplankton to varied resource availability in large lakes of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Limnology and Oceanography 44, 668682.
Johnson, T.C., (1996). Sedimentary processes and signals of past climatic change in the large lakes of the East African Rift valley. Johnson, T.C., and Odada, E.O. The Limnology, Climatology and Paleoclimatology of the East African Lakes. Gordon & Breach, Amsterdam. 367412.
Johnson, T.C., Brown, E., McManus, J., Barry, S., Barker, P., and Gasse, F., (2002). A high resolution paleoclimate record spanning the past 25,000 years in southern East Africa. Science 296, 113132.
Kilham, P., Kilham, S.S., and Hecky, R.E., (1986). Hypothesized resource relationships among African planktonic diatoms. Limnology and Oceanography 31, 11691181.
Kilham, S.S., and Kilham, P., (1975). Melosira granulata (Ehr.) Ralfs. morphology and ecology of a cosmopolitan freshwater diatom. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung für Limnologie 19, 27162721.
Krammer, K., and Lange-Bertalot, H., (1986). Bacillariophyceae, Part I, Naviculaceae. VCH, Stuttgart.
Krammer, K., and Lange-Bertalot, H., (1988). Bacillariophyceae, Part II, Bacillariaceae, Epithemiaceae, Surirellaceae. VCH, Stuttgart.
Krammer, K., and Lange-Bertalot, H., (1991). Bacillariophyceae, Part III, Centrales, Fragilariaceae, Eunotiaceae. VCH, Stuttgart.
Krammer, K., and Lange-Bertalot, H., (1991). Bacillariophyceae, Part IV, Achnanthaceae, Kritische Ergänzungen zu Navicula (Lineolatae) und Gomphonema Gesamliteraturverzeichnis. VCH, Stuttgart.
Kutzbach, J.E., and Street-Perrott, F.A., (1985). Milankovitch forcing of fluctuations in the level of tropical lakes from 18 to 0 kyr BP. Nature 317, 130134.
McCormick, P.V., Rawlik, P.S., Lurding, K., Smith, E.P., and Sklar, F.H., (1996). Periphyton–water quality relationships along a nutrient gradient in the northern Florida Everglades. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 15, 433449.
Merdaci, O., (1998). Changements climatiques au cours des dernières 30,000 ans an Afrique sud equatoriale (Tanzanie) par l'etude des pigments et phénols lacustres. Université Aix-Marseille III, Aix en Provence. [Ph.D. thesis]
Partridge, T.C., deMenocal, P.B., Lorentz, S.A., Paiker, M.J., and Vogel, J.C., (1997). Orbital forcing of climate over South Africa. a 200,000-year rainfall record from the Pretoria Saltpan. Quaternary Science Reviews 16, 11251133.
Pinot, S., Ramstein, G., Harrison, S.P., Prentice, I.C., Guiot, J., Stute, M., and Joussaume, S., (1999). Tropical paleoclimates at the Last Glacial Maximum. comparison of Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP) simulations and paleodata. Climate Dynamics 15, 857874.
Ricketts, R.D., and Johnson, T.C., (1996). Early Holocene changes in lake level and productivity in Lake Malawi as interpreted from oxygen and carbon isotope measurements of authigenic carbonates. Johnson, T.C., and Odada, E.O. The Limnology, Climatology and Paleoclimatology of the East African lakes. Gordon & Breach, Amsterdam. 475493.
Sonzogni, C., Bard, E., and Rostek, F., (1998). Tropical sea-surface temperatures during the last glacial period. a view based on alkenones in Indian Ocean sediments. Quaternary Science Reviews 17, 11851201.
Stager, J.C., (1988). Environmental changes at Lake Cheshi, Zambia since 40,000 years BP. Quaternary Research 29, 5465.
Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Beck, J.W., Burr, G.S., Hughen, K.A., Kromer, B., McCormac, F.G., van der Plicht, J., and Spurk, M., (1998). Radiocarbon Calibration Program REV 4.0/CALIB 4.0. Radiocarbon 40, 10411083.
Talbot, M.R., and Livingstone, D.A., (1989). Hydrogen index and carbon isotopes of lacustrine organic matter as lake level indicators. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 70, 121137.
Tesolin, G., and Tell, G., (1996). The epiphytic algae on floating macrophytes of a Parana river floodplain lake. Hydrobiologia 333, 111120.
Trauth, M.H., Deino, A., and Strecker, M.R., (2001). Response of the East African climate to orbital forcing during the last interglacial (130–117 ka) and the early last glacial (117–60 ka). Geology 29, 499502.
Vincens, A., Williamson, D., Thevenon, F., Taieb, M., Buchet, G., Decobert, M., Thouveny, N., (2003). Pollen-inferred vegetation changes in Southern Tanzania during the last 4200 years: climate and/or human impact?. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology., in press
Williamson, D., Jackson, M.J., Banerjee, S.K., Marvin, J., Merdaci, O., Thouveny, N., Decobert, M., Gibert-Massault, E., Massault, M., Mazaudier, D., and Taieb, M., (1999). Magnetic signatures of hydrological change in a tropical maar-lake (Lake Massoko, Tanzania). preliminary results. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth Part A Solid Earth and Geodesy 24, 799803.

Climatic and volcanic forcing revealed in a 50,000-year diatom record from Lake Massoko, Tanzania

  • Philip Barker (a1), David Williamson (a2), Françoise Gasse (a2) and Elisabeth Gibert (a3)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed