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Late Quaternary vegetation dynamics in a biodiversity hotspot, the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania

  • Jemma Finch (a1), Melanie J. Leng (a2) (a3) and Rob Marchant (a1)

Late Quaternary vegetation history and environmental changes in a biodiverse tropical ecosystem are inferred from pollen, charcoal and carbon isotope evidence derived from a ∼ 48,000-yr sedimentary record from the Uluguru Mountains, a component of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Kenya and Tanzania. Results indicate that Eastern Arc forest composition has remained relatively stable during the past ∼ 48,000 yr. Long-term environmental stability of the Eastern Arc forests has been proposed as a mechanism for the accumulation and persistence of species during glacial periods, thus resulting in the diverse forests observed today. The pollen and isotope data presented here indicate some marked changes in abundance but no significant loss in moist forest taxa through the last glacial maximum, thereby providing support for the long-term environmental stability of the Eastern Arc. Anthropogenic activities, including burning and forest clearance, were found to play a moderate role in shaping the mosaic of forest patches and high-altitude grasslands that characterise the site today; however, this influence was tempered by the inaccessibility of the mountain.

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