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Emergency departments are high-risk settings for severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) surface contamination. Environmental surface samples were obtained in rooms with patients suspected of having COVID-19 who did or did not undergo aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs). SARS-CoV-2 RNA surface contamination was most frequent in rooms occupied by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients who received no AGPs.
This paper presents the first continuous multi-proxy record of climate and vegetation change from the central Namib Desert extending over much of the last ca. 39,000 years. Derived from rock hyrax middens, evidence from stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes, pollen, and microcharcoal reveals significant differences between glacial-age and Holocene climates and vegetation types. Although still arid to semi-arid, conditions during Marine Oxygen Isotope Stages (MIS) 2–3 were significantly more humid than in the Late Holocene. Considerable associated vegetation change is apparent, with cooler temperatures and higher/more-regular rainfall promoting the westward expansion of relatively mesic shrubby karroid vegetation during MIS 2–3. With the last glacial–interglacial transition, increasing temperatures and less/less-regular rainfall resulted in marked vegetation changes and the establishment of current xeric grasslands. The inter-plant spacing of the karroid vegetation promoted by wetter conditions does not carry fire effectively, and the microcharcoal record indicates that more extensive fires may develop only with the development of grassier vegetation under drier conditions. As with other terrestrial records from the Namib Desert and environs, no Cape flora elements were found to support previously hypothesised expansion of the Fynbos Biome during the last glacial period.
The giant Cape zebra (Equus capensis) is one of the extinct Quaternary large mammal species of southern Africa, and the largest equid from the Quaternary of Africa. Twenty-six Pleistocene equid tracksites have been identified in aeolianites on the Cape south coast of South Africa. An age range of 161 ± 12 ka to 43 ± 4 ka has been established through Optically Stimulated Luminescence. More than half of the sites contain large-equid tracks, representing the first ichnosites attributed to E. capensis. Smaller equid tracks may have been registered by the quagga (E. quagga quagga). The abundance of E. capensis tracksites on the Cape south coast contrasts with the paucity of body fossils of the species from the region, contrasting with the impression obtained from the body fossil record that E. capensis was predominantly a west coast species in the region. The new data illustrate the capacity of the body fossil and trace fossil records to complement each other. The loss of suitable habitat provided by the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain was probably a contributing factor in the extinction of this large-bodied grazer. A long trackway at Driefontein, attributed to E. capensis, adds to a sparse global record of fossil horse trackways.
Although tortoises (Testudinidae) are a familiar clade of reptiles, with a body fossil record extending to at least the Eocene, hitherto no tortoise ichnosites have been described. Here, a number of sites attributed to tortoise trackmakers are identified within Pleistocene aeolianites on South Africa's Cape south coast. These date from late Marine Isotope Stage 6 to Marine Isotope Stage 4. The findings indicate large trackmakers, with evidence of a trackmaker length of more than a meter—substantially longer than the largest extant tortoises in southern Africa. This suggests either the presence of an extinct very large tortoise species, or that Pleistocene leopard tortoises in the region were larger than their descendants. Variations in substrate properties are responsible for a variety of track and trace forms. A mismatch exists between the reported ichnological evidence for large tortoises, and the regional archaeological and body fossil records, which almost exclusively comprise smaller tortoises. The findings illustrate the potential of ichnology to complement and augment the paleontological and archaeological records.
The southwestern Cape of South Africa is a particularly dynamic region in terms of long-term climate change. We analysed fossil pollen from a 25,000 year sediment core taken from a near-coastal wetland at Pearly Beach that revealed that distinct changes in vegetation composition occurred along the southwestern Cape coast. From these changes, considerable variability in temperature and moisture availability are inferred. Consistent with indications from elsewhere in southwestern Africa, variability in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) was identified as a strong determinant of regional climate change. At Pearly Beach, this resulted in phases of relatively drier conditions (~24–22.5 cal ka BP and ~22–18 cal ka BP) demarcated by brief phases of increased humidity from ~24.5–24 cal ka BP and 22.5–22 cal ka BP. During glacial Termination I (~19–11.7 ka), a marked increase in coastal thicket pollen from ~18.5 to 15.0 cal ka BP indicates a substantial increase in moisture availability, coincident, and likely associated with, a slowing AMOC and a buildup of heat in the southern Atlantic. With clear links to glacial and deglacial Earth system dynamics and perturbations, the Pearly Beach record represents an important new contribution to a growing body of data, providing insights into the patterns and mechanisms of southwestern African climate change.
Located at the interface between the temperate westerly and sub-tropical climate systems, South Africa's winter rainfall zone (WRZ) is a key location in understanding Late Quaternary atmospheric circulation dynamics. Inactive eolian deposits in the WRZ, comprising pan-fringing lunette and coastal dunes, were investigated to establish their depositional ages and utility as paleoenvironmental indicators. The resulting optical luminescence chronology reveals episodic lunette accretion at 60,000–45,000 yr, 12,000–13,000 yr, 2800–2600 yr, 1200 yr, and <1000 yr, with coastal dune ages clustering at 4100–4700 yr.
Episodes of lunette and coastal dune accretion on the Agulhas Plain are temporally distinct, reflecting differing fundamental controls on their activity. Comparisons to previously published data also reveal that the lunettes differ in age from more ancient coastal eolianites. Lunette deposition is asynchronous between locations, reflecting the topographic and hydrological setting of the individual pans. In near-coastal settings, with limited surface recharge, lunette accretion appears to be at least partially controlled by sea level induced changes in groundwater levels. Those pans with more significant surface recharge (particularly from fluvial systems) may produce less ambiguous paleoenvironmental records, with pan status more strongly reflecting regional hydrological conditions. Lunette orientation is indicative of strong westerly winds during both the Pleistocene and Holocene. Lunette accretion would have been promoted by reduced on-shore moisture transport during the summer months, enhancing rainfall seasonality. Such conditions would have been promoted by increased continentality as the Agulhas Bank was exposed during low sea level stands.
The continental margin of southern South Africa exhibits an array of emergent marginal marine sediments permitting the reconstruction of long-term eustatic sea-level changes. We report a suite of optical luminescence ages and supplementary amino acid racemization data, which provide paleosea-level index points for three sites on this coastline. Deposits in the Swartvlei and Groot Brak estuaries display tidal inlet facies overlain by shoreface or eolian facies. Contemporary facies relations suggest a probable high stand 6.0-8.5 m above modern sea level (amsl). At Cape Agulhas, evidence of a past sea-level high stand comprises a gravel beach (ca. 3.8 m amsl) and an overlying sandy shoreface facies (up to 7.5 m amsl). OSL ages between 138±7 ka and 118±7 ka confirm a last interglacial age for all marginal marine facies. The high stand was followed by a sea-level regression that was associated with the accumulation of eolian dunes dating to between 122±7 ka and 113±6 ka. These data provide the first rigorous numerical age constraints for last interglacial sea-level fluctuations in this region, revealing the timing and elevation of the last interglacial high stand to broadly mirror a number of other far-field locations.
Presented here are stable nitrogen isotope data from a rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) middens from northwestern Namibia that record a series of rapid aridification events beginning at ca. 3800 cal yr BP, and which mark a progressive decrease in regional humidity across the Holocene. Strong correlations exist between this record and other terrestrial and marine archives from southern Africa, indicating that the observed pattern of climate change is regionally coherent. Combined, these data indicate hemispheric synchrony in tropical African climate change during the Holocene, with similar trends characterising the termination of the ‘African Humid Period’ (AHP) in both the northern and southern tropics. These findings run counter to the widely accepted model of direct low-latitude insolation forcing, which requires an anti-phase relationship to exist between the hemispheres. The combined dataset highlights: 1) the importance of forcing mechanisms influencing the high northern latitudes in effecting low-latitude climate change in Africa, and 2) the potential importance of solar forcing and variations in the Earth's geomagnetic shield in determining both long-term and rapid centennial-scale climate changes, identifying a possible mechanism for the variations marking the AHP termination in both the southern and northern tropics.
The lowland savannas (Llanos) of Colombia and Venezuela are covered by extensive aeolian landforms for which little chronological information exists. We present the first optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) age constraints for dunes in the Llanos Orientales of lowland Colombia and new ages for dunes in the Venezuelan Llanos. The sampled dunes are fully vegetated and show evidence of post-depositional erosion. Ages range from 4.5 ± 0.4 to 66 ± 4 ka, with the majority dating to 27–10 ka (Marine Isotope Stage 2). Some dunes accumulated quickly during the last glacial maximum, although most were active 16–10 ka. Accretion largely ceased after 10 ka. All dunes are elongated downwind from rivers, parallel with dry season winds, and are interpreted as source-bordering features. As they are presently isolated from fluvial sediments by gallery forest it is proposed that activity was associated with a more prolonged dry season, which restricted gallery forest, leading to greater sediment availability on river shorelines. Such variability in dry season duration was potentially mediated by the mean latitude of the ITCZ. The cessation of most dune accretion after ca. 10 ka suggests reduced seasonality and a more northerly ITCZ position, consistent with evidence from the Cariaco Basin.