Lacustrine micro-fossil assemblage in core NP04-KH3, a Kullenberg piston core from the Moba-Kalya Horst region of Lake Tanganyika, East Africa, as a biogeochemical proxy for Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene climate and lake level changes
The objective of this research is to determine the correlation of lacustrine micro-fossils in Lake Tanganyika to changes in climate and lake levels during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene.
Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest and one of the oldest lakes in the world. The horst and graben geometry of the lake has created subaqueous structural platforms that accumulate pelagic sediments that contain and archive changes in micro-fossil assemblages controlled by changes in climate and lake levels. One such structural platform is the Moba-Kalya Horst.
Micro-fossil analysis of lacustrine sediments from a single Kullenberg piston core from the Moba-Kalya Horst indicate dramatic Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene climate and lake level changes that appear to be synchronized with regional, as well as hemispherical climate shifts.
During the Late Pleistocene at the Last Glacial Maximum which ended approximately 15 ky B.P., Lake Tanganyika experienced low-lake stands of 250-350 meters or more below the present lake level. From 17,537 to 15,000 calendar years BP, periphytic diatoms such as Rhopalodia gibberula and Surirella fuellebornii were abundant, as were grass phytoliths and sponge spicules, indicative of a dry climate regime. The dominant planktonic diatom was Stephanodiscus astraea, which thrived in low Si:P supply ratio, stratified lake environments in Na-HCO3 rich waters, indicative of a cool, arid climate regime. Periphytic diatoms were also abundant in Lake Malawi to the south and significantly negative δ180 values were recorded in Greenland ice cores for this period.
Following the low-lake stands of the Late Glacial Maximum, lake levels generally rose as East Africa experienced the AHP (African Humid Period) (14.4-5.5 cal ky BP). An increase in planktonic diatoms and decrease in periphytic diatoms were recorded in the lacustrine sediments at this time which indicate a positive water balance and rising lake levels. The accumulation of dark-bundled, laminated sediments indicate that the climate was wet and the coring site was below the annual thermocline. A decrease in S. astraea and increase in Cyclostephanos damasii signal conditions of increased moisture to the lake, and decreased evaporation.
Around 13 ky B.P. conditions at Lake Tanganyika reverted to Late Glacial Maximum conditions which lasted until approximately 11.5 ky B.P.. Periphytic diatoms once again became abundant, and sponge spicule and grass phytolith counts rose. S.astraea dominance again rose as lake conditions were calm and stratified and the climate was cool and arid. Periphytic diatoms became abundant in Lake Malawi during this period, and increased negative δ180 values were recorded in the Greenland ice cores correlating with increased periphytic diatoms in both Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi.
Following the Late Pleistocene cold period, lake levels once again began rising as the climate became wetter and windier. Fluctuations from wet and windy to wet and calm occurred at the terminus of the Late Pleistocene as diatom dominance alternated from Aulacoseira granulata, which indicates wet and windy with increase upwelling, to C.damasii, which indicate wet and stratified. Around 9800 B.P. lake conditions stabilized and remained wet and windy with increase turbulence and upwelling which optimized conditions for the dominance of A.granulata. These conditions prevailed through the Early Holocene to at least 6500 B.P. From the Middle Holocene to the present, the general climate of East Africa was and is more arid than the early Holocene, with dry windy conditions and continued upwelling.