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Late quaternary palaeoecology and palaeoclimates of the eastern Sahara


Hoelzmann,  P.
Department Biogeochemical Synthesis, Prof. C. Prentice, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Pachur, H. J., & Hoelzmann, P. (2000). Late quaternary palaeoecology and palaeoclimates of the eastern Sahara. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 30(4), 929-939.

Latest field research and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions have revealed that within less than 6000 years the eastern Sahara experienced a dramatic climatic change similar to that in the western Sahara, passing from hyperaridity to semi-aridity (dry savanna) to its present hyperarid state. Groundwater levels started to rise about 9300 years before present (C-14 years BP), leading to the formation of a mosaic of freshwater rakes and swamps. Within a few decades, the aquifers were loaded and the palaeopiezometric surface was as much as 25 m higher than it is today. The uplands generated up to 800 km long fluvial systems, which put an end to the endorheic drainage of the region and functioned as migration paths for large savanna mammals. These wetter conditions persisted in western Nubia during the Holocene until ca 5000 years BP The climatic deterioration began around 5700 years BP as shown by evaporitic sediments. Reversal events prior to aridification during the Late Holocene were not recorded systematically in the sediments of the eastern Sahara because of the stability of the ecosystems. Changes in land-surface conditions such as palaeolakes, swamps and vegetation created water vapour sources that generated local rainfall and buffered short dry spells. Radiocarbon-dated charcoal indicates that Neolithic human occupation culminated during this Early Holocene wet phase and ended ca 2000 years after the fading of the wet phase at about 3000 years BP, when the shallow aquifers were exhausted. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Limited. AII rights reserved. [References: 67]