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Owing to the hypercontinental location of Western Nubia, secular fluctuations of climate have been filtered and wet phases can be considered as representative of conditions throughout the southeastern Sahara. The study area is crossed by the 20-mm isohyet; between 9300 and about 4000 yr B.P., however, there were widespread lake and swamp environments with freshwater molluscs, ostracods, and diatoms, and a species-rich savanna mammal fauna. The center of the West Nubian Basin (approx. 18°N), an area of about 20,000 km2, was occupied by a semiaquatic landscape which was situated at the same latitude as Paleolake Chad. From extensive lake carbonates up to about 4 m thick, a long-term rise of the groudwater table is inferred. Environments developed that now exist at about latitude 13°N. Radiocarbon dates from lake sediment sequences cluster between 30,000 and 21,000 yr B.P., indicating a Pleistocene wet phase. A gap in radiocarbon dates between 21,000 and 11,000 yr B.P. signals a phase of hyperaridity, similar to the present hyperarid phase, with eolian deflation and deposits of sand being the dominant forms of erosion and accumulation.
The Lake Tilla crater lake in northeastern Nigeria (10°23′N, 12°08′E) provides a ca. 17,000 14C yr multiproxy record of the environmental history of a Sudanian savanna in West Africa. Evaluation of pollen, diatoms, and sedimentary geochemistry from cores suggests that dry climatic conditions prevailed throughout the late Pleistocene. Before the onset of the Holocene, the slow rise in lake levels was interrupted by a distinct dry event between ca. 10,900 and 10,500 14C yr B.P., which may coincide with the Younger Dryas episode. The onset of the Holocene is marked by an abrupt increase in lake levels and a subsequent spread of Guinean and Sudanian tree taxa into the open grass savanna that predominated throughout the Late Pleistocene. The dominance of the mountain olive Olea hochstetteri suggests cool climatic conditions prior to ca. 8600 14C yr B.P. The early to mid-Holocene humid period culminated between ca. 8500 and 7000 14C yr B.P. with the establishment of a dense Guinean savanna during high lake levels. Frequent fires were important in promoting the open character of the vegetation. The palynological and palaeolimnological data demonstrate that the humid period terminated after ca. 7000 14C yr B.P. in a gradual decline of the precipitation/evaporation ratio and was not interrupted by abrupt climatic events. The aridification trend intensified after ca. 3800 14C yr B.P. and continued until the present.
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