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Holocene climatic variability indicated by a multi-proxy record from southern Africa’s highest wetland

Fitchett, Jennifer M, Mackay, Anson W, Grab, Stefan W, Bamford, Marion K
Bacillariophyceae, altitude, biodiversity, climate, cold, paleoecology, pollen, vegetation, wetlands, Lesotho
The eastern Lesotho Highlands experience climate patterns distinct from those of surrounding lower altitude regions, representing a niche environment with a unique biodiversity, leading to well-adapted but restricted vegetation. This study explores changes in the Holocene composition of diatoms and pollen at southern Africa’s highest altitude wetland (Mafadi: 3390 m a.s.l.). The palaeoenvironmental record for Mafadi Wetland indicates fluctuations between cold, wet conditions, prevalent between ~8140 and 7580 cal. yr BP and between ~5500 and 1100 cal. yr BP, and warmer, drier periods between ~7520 and 6680 cal. yr BP and between ~6160 and 5700 cal. yr BP. Marked climatic variability is noted from ~1100 cal. yr BP with colder conditions at ~150 kyr BP. Notably, the first of these cold periods occurs soon after the Northern Hemisphere 8.2 kyr event, while a second period of notably cold conditions occurs around 1100 cal. yr BP. Variability exists between the moisture reconstructions presented in this study and those from adjacent lower altitude sites, which is hypothesised to reflect variations in the strength and extent of the Westerlies throughout the Holocene.