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Holocene fire dynamics and their climatic controls on the southern Cape coast of South Africa : A 7.2 ka multi-proxy record from the peatland Vankervelsvlei

Title data

Strobel, Paul ; Henning, Theresa ; Bliedtner, Marcel ; Mosher, Stella G. ; Rahimova, Humay ; Haberzettl, Torsten ; Kirsten, Kelly L. ; Lehndorff, Eva ; Power, Mitchell J. ; Zech, Michael ; Zech, Roland:
Holocene fire dynamics and their climatic controls on the southern Cape coast of South Africa : A 7.2 ka multi-proxy record from the peatland Vankervelsvlei.
In: Quaternary Science Reviews. Vol. 325 (2024) . - 108464.
ISSN 0277-3791
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2023.108464

Abstract in another language

Fire is a natural phenomenon along South Africa's southern Cape coast, but identifying its climatic drivers has been a subject of considerable debate. This study investigates the hydroclimatic and fire dynamics from a 9.6 m sediment core from Vankervelsvlei covering the past 7.2 ka. The fen is located near the southern Cape coast within the year-round rainfall zone of South Africa. A reconstruction of hydroclimatic variability through time applies oxygen isotopes from hemicellulose-derived sugars and hydrogen isotopes from leaf wax-derived n-alkanes. Coupling both isotopes enables a reconstruction of the atmospheric source and seasonality of precipitation as well as estimating local relative humidity. Past trends in fire activity are inferred from macro-charcoal and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) analyses, the latter serving as fire biomarkers.

Results indicate high fire activity at Vankervelsvlei accompanied by generally moist conditions and a year-round rainfall regime linked to both Westerly-derived winter precipitation and Easterly- and locally-derived summer precipitation from 7.2+0.2/−0.2 to 4.5+0.3/−0.3 cal ka BP. From 4.5+0.3/−0.3 to 1.5+0.4/−0.2 cal ka BP, a shift to a Westerly-derived winter rainfall regime is identified. This variation features alongside reduced fire activity and persistent drought conditions as Easterly- and locally-derived summer precipitation decreased. From 1.5+0.4/−0.2 cal ka BP until present day, macro-charcoal and PAH accumulation rates show high fire activity. Paleoclimate evidence from the last two millennia suggests a variable climate with an overall increase in total moisture availability as contributions from both Westerly-derived winter precipitation and Easterly- and locally-derived summer precipitation support the year-round rainfall regime present today.

Results from Vankervelsvlei support previous evidence from regional paleo-reconstructions, refining our understanding of the interplay between hydroclimatic variability and fire activity along South Africa's southern Cape coast. Our study discusses the role of large-scale climate modes, specifically the intensity of El Niño, as a potential driver of short-term hydroclimatic variability, which in turn drives fuel availability and fire activity at Vankervelsvlei during the Holocene.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Paleofire; Paleoclimate; Charcoal; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Stable isotopes; Precipitation; Relative humidity
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Chair Soil Ecology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Chair Soil Ecology > Chair Soil Ecology - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff
Research Institutions > Central research institutes > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Result of work at the UBT: No
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 550 Earth sciences, geology
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2024 10:25
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2024 10:25
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/88199