Extending the aridity record of the Southwest Kalahari: current problems and future perspectives

Bateman, Mark D. ; Thomas, David S. G. ; Singhvi, Ashok K. (2003) Extending the aridity record of the Southwest Kalahari: current problems and future perspectives Quaternary International, 111 (1). pp. 37-49. ISSN 1040-6182

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Official URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S...

Related URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1040-6182(03)00013-2


An extensive luminescence-based chronological framework has allowed the reconstruction of expansions and contractions of the Kalahari Desert over the last 50 ka. However, this chronology is largely based on near-surface pits and sediment exposures. These are the points on the landscape most prone to reactivation and resetting of the luminescence dating 'clock'. This is proving to be a limiting feature for extending palaeoenvironmental reconstructions further back in time. One way to obviate this is to sample desert marginal areas that only become active during significant arid phases. An alternative is to find and sample deep stratigraphic exposures. The Mamatwan manganese mine at Hotazel in the SW Kalahari meets both these criteria. Luminescence dating of this site shows the upper sedimentary unit to span at least the last 60 ka with tentative age estimates from underlying cemented aeolian units dating back to the last interglacial and beyond. Results from Mamatwan are comparable to new and previously published data from linear dunes in the SW Kalahari but extend back much further. Analysis of the entire data set of luminescence ages for the SW Kalahari brings out important inferences that suggest that different aeolian forms (1) have been active over different time scales in the past, (2) have different sensitivities to environmental changes and (3) have different time scales over which they record and preserve the palaeoenvironmental record. This implies that future optically stimulated luminescence work and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions must consider both site location and its relationship to desert margins and sediment depositional styles, so that the resolution and duration of the aridity record can be optimally understood.

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