Drivers of ecosystem and climate change in tropical West Africa over the past ∼540 000 years

Charlotte S. Miller*, William D. Gosling, David B. Kemp, Angela L. Coe, Iain Gilmour

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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A paucity of empirical non-marine data means that uncertainty surrounds the impact of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems in tropical regions beyond the last glacial period. The sedimentary fill of the Bosumtwi impact crater (Ghana) provides the longest continuous Quaternary terrestrial archive of environmental change in West Africa, spanning the last similar to 1.08 million years. Here we explore the drivers of change in ecosystem and climate in tropical West Africa for the past similar to 540 000 years using pollen analysis and the nitrogen isotope composition of bulk organic matter preserved in sediments from Lake Bosumtwi. Variations in grass pollen abundance (0-99%) indicate transitions between grassland and forest. Coeval variations in the nitrogen isotopic composition of organic matter indicate that intervals of grassland expansion coincided with minimum lake levels and low regional moisture availability. The observed changes responded to orbitally paced global climate variations on both glacial-interglacial and shorter timescales. Importantly, the magnitude of ecosystem change revealed by our data exceeds that previously determined from marine records, demonstrating for the first time the high sensitivity of tropical lowland ecosystems to Quaternary climate change. Copyright (C) 2016 The Authors. Journal of Quaternary Science Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-677
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number7
Early online date16 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Funded by
NERC/The Open University Charter studentship. Grant Number: NE/H525054/1 C.S.M. NERC Fellowship. Grant Number: NE/NE/I02089X/1 D.B.K. NERC New Investigator award. Grant Number: NE/G000824/1 W.D.G.


  • Lake Bosumtwi
  • nitrogen isotopes
  • orbital forcing
  • palynology
  • West Africa
  • pollen data
  • vegetation
  • variability
  • Pleistocene
  • evolution
  • sediments
  • history
  • records
  • forest
  • carbon


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