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This paper presents a spatial reconstruction of climate in East Africa at 6000 14C yr B.P. Two different approaches using pollen data have been used, the standard “best modern analogues” method and the new “plant functional type” method, based on groups of pollen taxa. Both methods have been applied to 32 fossil pollen spectra dated at 6000 14C yr B.P. For each site, we have estimated two climatic parameters (annual precipitation and mean annual temperature), three bioclimatic parameters (ratio of actual to potential evapotranspiration, and the mean temperature of the coldest and warmest months). Results show that the temperature lapse rate was less steep at 6000 14C yr B.P. than it is today. The climate was wetter north of 3°S (precipitation anomalies >+50 mm/yr) and slightly drier farther south (precipitation anomalies ≤+50 mm/yr). The ratio of actual to potential evapotranspiration also indicates conditions similar to or wetter than today north of 3°S (anomalies >10%). The climate was warmer than today by 2°C north of the equator and was cooler southward (≤−1°C). Although both methods indicate similar climatic patterns, the plant functional type method provides more consistent results.
Pollen and δ13CTOM data obtained from two contrasting lake sequences (Lakes Kamalété and Nguène), located 200 km apart in the lowland rainforest of Gabon, provide complementary local and regional 1500-yr records of high resolution (15–30 yr) vegetation change. A combination of aquatic, semi-aquatic and terrestrial pollen showed in both records that the tropical rainforest increased during periods of high rainfall and decreased during drought intervals. The strong fluctuations of water balance at decadal scale during the “Medieval Warm Period” (∼ 1100–800 cal yr BP) coincided with a noticeable increase in shade-intolerant taxa, indicating recurring rainforest canopy disturbance. The δ13CTOM signal showed high-amplitude variations in both records, which positively correlates with the rainforest dynamics and local vegetation changes. The similar trends in both the pollen and the δ13CTOM signals between these sites demonstrate the regional broadly synchronous timing of shifting hydrological conditions. The largely positive co-variation between strong fluctuations of hydrological conditions and changes in rainforest structure and composition indicate that regional climatic change is probably the driving force for major rainforest dynamics in Gabon. Any significant anthropogenic impact on vegetation has not been clearly identified, and this issue still needs to be resolved independently by obtaining detailed archeological records across the interval 1400–800 BP, which currently seem to be extremely rare or not easily available.
Terrestrial mollusks, easily identified in Quaternary sediments, represent a reliable tool for quantitative estimates of environmental parameters. Our study, comparing the species distribution with meteorological parameters in Europe, shows that mean temperature of the coldest month and annual thermal magnitude are the most important forcing parameters. This survey allows us to adapt the mutual climatic range (MCR) method to terrestrial mollusk assemblages following two main steps. A set of assemblages from different European regions (northern Norway to southern France) is used to apply the method to present-day mollusks. The reconstructed values describe the latitudinal temperature gradient prevailing over Europe. However, the comparison between the reconstructed and the measured values indicates a shift, similar to that observed, with the same method applied to beetle assemblages. Thus, estimates must be calculated after the reconstruction is tuned with the observations. The results from the modern mollusk assemblages indicate that the MCR method can be safely applied to reconstructing temperatures from terrestrial mollusk assemblages in any worldwide Quaternary sequence. A trial application is made on Late Pleistocene assemblages from Achenheim (Alsace, France).
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