The reconstruction of late quaternary vegetation and climatic patterns on the Cape West Coast, using a charcoal sequence from Elands Bay Cave

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

A taxonomically well resolved sequence of charcoal spanning the past 40 000 years from the Elands Bay Cave was used in this thesis to achieve two main objectives: firstly to determine the plant communities which occurred in the past to compare these to extant communities, and secondly to predict past climates by using extant species-climate relationships. This quantitative approach in predicting past climates is novel in the western Cape. Two scales of study were used, a local and a regional scale. The study area used in the local approach was a block of land in the surrounds of the cave where the present-day distributions of the species (that occurred in the charcoal) could be sampled. A larger study area including the whole of South Africa was also used as a study area so as to determine the distribution of species that do not occur on the Cape west coast today, and also to sample a wider suite of climatic conditions. A classification of the past, present and combined data was conducted in order to document the change in communities over time. Ordination techniques were used to asses the environmental variables controlling the distribution of species in the landscape.

Bibliography: pages 118-133.