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A 3000-year record of vegetation changes and fire at a high-elevation wetland on Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Colin J. Courtney Mustaphi*
Geoecology, Department of Environmental Science, University of Basel, 4056Basel, Switzerland Center for Water Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy (WISE) Futures, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, P.O. Box 9124 Nelson Mandela, Tengeru, Arusha, Tanzania
Rahab Kinyanjui
Palynology and Palaeobotany Section, Department of Earth Sciences, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
Anna Shoemaker
Center for Water Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy (WISE) Futures, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, P.O. Box 9124 Nelson Mandela, Tengeru, Arusha, Tanzania Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 256, 751 05Uppsala, Sweden Paleoecological Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL), Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada
Cassian Mumbi
Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), Njiro Road, Arusha, Tanzania
Veronica Muiruri
Palynology and Palaeobotany Section, Department of Earth Sciences, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
Laura Marchant
York Institute for Tropical Ecosystems, Department of Geography and Environment, University of York, York, YO10 5NG, United Kingdom
Stephen M. Rucina
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 256, 751 05Uppsala, Sweden
Rob Marchant
York Institute for Tropical Ecosystems, Department of Geography and Environment, University of York, York, YO10 5NG, United Kingdom
*Corresponding author email address: (C.J. Courtney Mustaphi).


Kilimanjaro is experiencing the consequences of climate change and multiple land-use pressures. Few paleoenvironmental and archeological records exist to examine historical patterns of late Holocene ecosystem changes on Kilimanjaro. Here we present pollen, phytolith, and charcoal (>125 μm) data from a palustrine sediment core that provide a 3000-year radiocarbon-dated record collected from a wetland near the headwaters of the Maua watershed in the alpine and ericaceous vegetation zones. From 3000 to 800 cal yr BP, the pollen, phytolith, and charcoal records show subtle variability in ericaceous and montane forest assemblages with apparent multicentennial secular variability and a long-term pattern of increasing Poaceae and charcoal. From 800 to 600 cal yr BP, montane forest taxa varied rapidly, Cyperaceae abundances increased, and charcoal remained distinctly low. From 600 yr cal BP to the present, woody taxa decreased, and ericaceous taxa and Poaceae dominated, with a conspicuously increased charcoal influx. Uphill wetland ecosystems are crucial for ecological and socioeconomic resilience on and surrounding the mountain. The results were synthesized with the existing paleoenvironmental and archaeological data to explore the high spatiotemporal complexity of Kilimanjaro and to understand historical human-environment interactions. These paleoenvironmental records create a long-term context for current climate, biodiversity, and land-use changes on and around Kilimanjaro.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2020

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authors contributed equally



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