Plio-Pleistocene climatic change in the Turkana Basin (East Africa) : Evidence from large mammal faunas

Fernandez, Manuel Hernandez
Vrba, Elisabeth S
Journal of Human Evolution
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We investigated palaeoclimatic change in the Turkana Basin during the Pliocene climatic shift toward increased aridity in Africa. We analyzed the palaeoecology of this area using mammal faunas as environmental indicators. Twenty Plio-Pleistocene fossil assemblages and a comparative dataset of 16 modern localities covering a wide range of climatic and ecological conditions across Africa were analyzed. We constructed community profiles using taxonomic variables which reflect ecological information. Principal component analysis and bivariate correlation were used to study changes in the community structure of these mammalian faunas and to draw palaeoenvironmental inferences. Subsequently, least-squares regressions yielded climatic estimates (annual rainfall and drought length) for the studied period. An additional set of 8 modern faunas was used to validate these regression models. The climatic estimates showed a drying trend throughout the sequence. The biomes in the Turkana Basin changed from semi-evergreen rain forest to deciduous woodland and savanna during the middle-late Pliocene. This was the most important climatic shift detected in our study. Evidence suggests a continuous presence of savannas from 2.5 million years ago onwards. This pattern of climatic change is consistent with isotopic evidence on global climate, and with independently derived regional palaeoenvironmental evidence (i.e., micromammals, palaeovegetation, soil carbonates and palaeosols).
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Journal of Human Evolution
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Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.