Effects of atmospheric CO 2 variability of the past 800 kyr on the biomes of southeast Africa

Dupont, Lydie M.; Caley, Thibaut; Castañeda, Isla S.

Very little is known about the impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide pressure (inline-formulapCO2) on the shaping of biomes. The development of inline-formulapCO2 throughout the Brunhes Chron may be considered a natural experiment to elucidate relationships between vegetation and inline-formulapCO2. While the glacial periods show low to very low values (inline-formula∼220 to inline-formula∼190 ppmv, respectively), the inline-formulapCO2 levels of the interglacial periods vary from intermediate to relatively high (inline-formula∼250 to more than 270 ppmv, respectively). To study the influence of inline-formulapCO2 on the Pleistocene development of SE African vegetation, we used the pollen record of a marine core (MD96-2048) retrieved from Delagoa Bight south of the Limpopo River mouth in combination with stable isotopes and geochemical proxies. Applying endmember analysis, four pollen assemblages could be distinguished representing different biomes: heathland, mountain forest, shrubland and woodland. We find that the vegetation of the Limpopo River catchment and the coastal region of southern Mozambique is influenced not only by hydroclimate but also by temperature and atmospheric inline-formulapCO2. Our results suggest that the extension of mountain forest occurred during those parts of the glacials when inline-formulapCO2 and temperatures were moderate and that only during the colder periods when atmospheric inline-formulapCO2 was low (less than 220 ppmv) open ericaceous vegetation including Cinline-formula4 sedges extended. The main development of woodlands in the area took place after the Mid-Brunhes Event (inline-formula∼430 ka) when interglacial inline-formulapCO2 levels regularly rose over 270 ppmv.

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Dupont, Lydie M. / Caley, Thibaut / Castañeda, Isla S.: Effects of atmospheric CO2 variability of the past 800 kyr on the biomes of southeast Africa. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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