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Biome reconstruction from pollen and plant macrofossil data for Africa and the Arabian peninsula at 0 and 6000 years

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Biome reconstruction from pollen and plant macrofossil data provides an objective method to reconstruct past vegetation. Biomes for Africa and the Arabian peninsula have been mapped for 6000 years bp and provide a new standard for the evaluation of simulated palaeovegetation distributions. A test using modern pollen data shows the robustness of the biomization method, which is able to predict the major vegetation types with a high confidence level. The application of the procedure to the 6000 years data set (pollen and plant macrofossil analyses) shows systematic differences from the present that are consistent with the numerous previous regional and continental interpretations, while providing a more extensive and more objective basis for such interpretations. Madagascar, eastern, southern and central Africa show only minor changes in terms of biomes, compared to present. Major changes in biome distributions occur north of 15°N, with steppe in many low-elevation sites that are now desert, and temperate xerophytic woods/scrub and warm mixed forest in the Saharan mountains. These shifts in biome distributions imply significant changes in climate, especially precipitation, between 6000 years and present, reflecting a change in monsoon extent combined with a southward expansion of Mediterranean influence.
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Keywords: 6000 years; Africa; Arabian peninsula; Biome; Madagascar; plant functional type; plant macrofossil; pollen

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Global Systems Group, Department of Plant Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, Sölvegatan 37, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden 2: Laboratoire de Géologie du Quaternaire, CNRS, CEREGE, BP80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence, Cedex 04, France 3: Université d’Angers, Departement de Géographie, 35 Rue de la Barre, F-49000 Angers, France 4: Laboratoire de Palynologie, U.S.T.L., 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France 5: Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University, Bronx, New York, 10458 U.S.A. 6: Département de Géologie Sédimentaire, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 4 Place Jussieu, F-75252 Paris cedex 5, France 7: Laboratoire de Botanique Historique et Palynologie, Case 451, Faculté des Sciences de St Jérome, CNRS UA 1152, F-13397 Marseille Cedex 13, France 8: F.D.S., U.B., Département de Botanique, BP1515, Lomé, Togo 9: Dynamic Palaeoclimatology Group, Lund University, Box 117, S-221 00 Lund, Sweden 10: Department of Geography, University of Wales, Penglais, Aberystwyth, DYFED, SY23 3DB Wales, U.K. 11: UNILU, Département de Géographie, BP1825, Lubumbashi, ZaıÏre 12: Pebbledash Cottage, Corfe, Taunton, Somerset, TA3 7AJ England, U.K. 13: Laboratoire de Palynologie, Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, B-3080, Tervuren, Belgique 14: Botany Department, University of Orange Free State, PO Box 339, Bloemfontein, 9301, Republic of South Africa 15: Department of Geology, Makerere University, PO Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda 16: Botanisches Institut, Neue Universität, Olshausenstrasse 40–60, D-24098 Kiel, Germany 17: Geology Department, Addis Ababa University, PO Box 3434, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 18: Laboratoire d’Ecologie Terrestre, UMR 5552 (CNRS-UPS), 13 Avenue du Colonel Roche, BP 4403, 31 405 Toulouse cedex 4, France 19: Paléontologie, Université de Liège, Place du XX Aout, 4000 Liège, Belgium 20: School of Geography, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 2EE England.

Publication date: November 1, 1998

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