Quaternary forest associations in lowland tropical West Africa

Miller, Charlotte S. and Gosling, William D. (2014). Quaternary forest associations in lowland tropical West Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews, 84 pp. 7–25.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.10.027


Terrestrial fossil pollen records are frequently used to reveal the response of vegetation to changes in both regional and global climate. Here we present a fossil pollen record from sediment cores extracted from Lake Bosumtwi (West Africa). This record covers the last c. 520 thousand years (ka) and represents the longest terrestrial pollen record from Africa published to date. The fossil pollen assemblages reveal dynamic vegetation change which can be broadly characterized as indicative of shifts between savannah and forest. Savannah formations are heavily dominated by grass (Poaceae) pollen (>55%) typically associated with Cyperaceae, Chenopodiaceae–Amaranthaceae and Caryophyllaceae. Forest formations are palynologically more diverse than the savannah, with the key taxa occurring in multiple forest zones being Moraceae, Celtis, Uapaca, Macaranga and Trema. The fossil pollen data indicate that over the last c. 520 ka the vegetation of lowland tropical West Africa has mainly been savannah; however six periods of forest expansion are evident which most likely correspond to global interglacial periods. A comparison of the forest assemblage composition within each interglacial suggests that the Holocene (11–0 ka) forest occurred under the wettest climate, while the forest which occurred at the time of Marine Isotope Stage 7 probably occurred under the driest climate.

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