Humans changed the ecosystems of Central Africa more than 2,600 years ago | 2/26/2018 | Staff
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Fields, streets and cities, but also forests planted in rank and file, and dead straight rivers: humans shape nature to better suit their purposes, and not only since the onset of industrialization. Such influences are well documented in the Amazonian rainforest. On the other hand, the influence of humans was debated in Central Africa where major interventions seem to have occurred there 2,600 years ago: Potsdam geoscientist Yannick Garcin and his team have published a report on their findings in the journal PNAS. The research team examined lake sediments in southern Cameroon to solve the riddle of the "rainforest crisis." They found that the drastic transformation of the rainforest ecosystem at this time wasn't a result of climatic change, it was mankind.

More than 20 years ago, the analysis of lake sediments from Lake Barombi in southern Cameroon showed that older sediment layers mainly contained tree pollen reflecting a dense forested environment. In contrast, the newer sediments contained a significant proportion of savannah pollen: the dense primitive forest quickly transformed into savannahs around 2,600 years ago, followed by an equally abrupt recovery of the forest approximately 600 years later. For a long time, the most probable cause of this sudden change, dubbed the "rainforest crisis", was thought to be climate change brought about by a decrease in precipitation amount and increase in precipitation seasonality. Despite some controversy, the origin of the rainforest crisis was thought to be settled.

Garcin - Researcher - University - Potsdam - Team

Yet Garcin, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Potsdam, and his international team of scientists from UP, CEREGE, IRD, ENS Lyon, GFZ, MARUM, AMU, AWI, and from Cameroon suspected that other causes could have led to the ecosystem's transformation. By reconstructing both vegetation and climate change independently - through stable isotope analysis of plant waxes, molecular fossils preserved in the sediment - the...
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